Schalmont pitcher Matt Capovani’s night didn’t get off to a good start against Johnstown in the Section II Class BB baseball championship game.
It began with a walk to leadoff hitter Ryan Autry. Then, Capovani hit Dan Nellis with a pitch.
“I was a little nervous,” the junior right-hander said. “I was getting the nerves out of me. I just needed to settle down. Eventually, I did.”
Capovani retired the next three batters, and took control from there as the Sabres won their second straight sectional title with a 6-1 victory over the Sir Bills at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
The Sabres (22-1) will face Colonial Council-rival Fonda-Fultonville in the Class BB/B championship game Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Plumeri Sports Complex.
Capovani gave up a run on two hits. He had the curveball working well. Capovani struck out 12 and walked four. He struck out the side in the fourth.
“Going into those first three innings, I was just overthrowing,” Capovani said. “I settled down in the fourth inning. I was just using mechanics and stuff. I was good from there.”
Capovani took a shutout into the seventh. That was broken up when pinch-runner Derek Gray scored on a wild pitch.
Capovani was one out away from getting a complete game before coach Bob Anderson lifted him after he walked Autry for the third time. Greg Musk came in and struck out Dan Nellis to end the game.
“I was a little disappointed, but what can you do,” Capovani said. “I did as good as I could.”
Anderson said Capovani did more than well.
“He was a little nervous. He admitted it coming off of the mound,” Anderson said. “Matty usually takes an inning to get going. But once he got into that groove, he was dynamite tonight.”
Capovani had to be sharp because Sir Bills starter Grant Gyldenvand didn’t give up a hit through four innings. But Johnstown’s defense made four errors.
Gyldenvand made one of the errors, bobbling Jake Defayette’s grounder to start the third inning. After a walk to Anthony Yezzo, Nick Bird’s bunt attempt was caught by first baseman Richie Lee for the first out.
Musk then hit a slow grounder to the right side. Second baseman Nellis charged the ball. After fielding it, his throw eluded Lee, allowing Defayette to score.
A one-out throwing error by Sir Bills shortstop Matt Szurek allowed Yezzo to reach base in the fifth. After stealing second, Yezzo scored on a two-out single.
“When you do that in a game against a team that is good [like Schalmont] and takes advantage of those errors, you put yourself in that hole that’s tough to build out of,” Johnstown coach Aaron Mraz said.
The Sabres put the game way with a four-run sixth. Singles by John Pascarella and Joe Wignot put runners at the corners and ended Gyldenvand’s night. Autry replaced Gyldenvand, and he struck out Kevin Paskevich. A walked to Chris Hamilton loaded the bases. With the infield in, Kaelan Meers lofted an single over Nellis’ glove for a 3-0 lead.
Wignot scored on a bunt, Nick Byrd had a sacrifice fly and Meers scored on a wild pitch.
When the final out was recorded, the Sabres celebrated quietly.
“We’ve set some goals at the beginning of the season, and we have to take it to the next step,” Anderson said. “We got to the regional final last year. We lost a tough game in nine innings. We’re not there yet. And we have to play the extra playoff game on Saturday against a Fonda team right from our league, and then we have to go win another regional game just to get to the [state] final four.”
Johnstown 000 000 1 — 1 2 4
Schalmont 001 014 x — 6 5 0
Gyldenvand, Autry (6) and Caputo; Capovani. Musk (7) and Yezzo.