The youngest of Section II’s five state tournament baseball teams showed its age for the first time in quite a while Friday.
Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville never got the bats going against Heuvelton knuckleballer Mike Martin, and compounded its woes with eight errors in a 14-0 Class D regional semifinal loss at Shuttleworth Park.
Those errors helped the Bulldogs score 13 unearned runs.
“We had been playing good ball. It’s been a long time since we had a bad game,” said Wolves coach Darin Lynch. “Wrong time.”
With five juniors, five sophomores and a freshman, Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville beat Germantown and then the top two seeds, Loudonville Christian and Fort Ann, for the Section II championship and a regional spot.
The first-year merged school also won a Section II title in the fall in girls’ soccer.
“I’m very proud of these kids,” said Lynch. “We’re young. We have no seniors. We won a sectional title and exceeded a lot of expectations.”
The Wolves had high hopes for a run to the state final four, but they were dashed soon after Brad Smith’s two-out fly down the right field was ruled foul, taking the tying run off the board in the bottom of the first. Smith ended the inning with a groundout, and the Bulldogs (Section X, 18-2) struck for three runs in the second before adding four more in the fourth.
“My first base coach swore he saw chalk fly,” Lynch said of Smith’s fly. “Momentum changed.”
A throwing error and four straight hits, including Jordan MacAuley’s two-run single, were part of Heuvelton’s second-inning. Dylan Liscum and Collin Trathen hit RBI singles in the Heuvelton fourth and two runs came across on errors.
The Bulldogs scored four more times in the fifth, a frame that included two errors and Jack Palmer’s two-run double.
Heuventon finished with 11 base hits, and drew nine walks off three Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville pitchers. The first, John Vicciarelli, recorded just five outs before Smith — a nine-game winner — came on.
“I thought it would be close,” said Martin, a sophomore righty who allowed five hits, struck out nine and walked a pair. “We have friends from Fort Ann, and they said they were good.”
Before Friday, the Wolves (14-7) did enough good things to climb to No. 6 in the New York State Sportswriters Association Class D rankings. Heuvelton came in with a No. 2 state ranking.
“We lost three of four early in the season. We also lost our top pitcher [Dylan Klock] early in the year with an injury, and Brad really picked up the slack,” said Lynch. “We made a lot out of a bad situation.”
Devan Battisti hit a fourth-inning double, and third baseman Nick D’Antonino made a sliding catch on a pop fly near the Wolves’ dugout in the fifth for OESJ’s highlightes. The Wolves had opportunities for more.
Joe D’Antonino hit a one-out single in the third inning and raced to third base on Klock’s single. After Klock stole second, Martin handled a comebacker and got an infield popout.
Battisti took third on a wild pitch after his one-out double in the fourth, and Nate Trumble walked and stole second. Martin then recorded two strikeouts.
“I had to get some outs,” said Martin. “If I don’t get them, I know my fielders have my back.”
Martin struck out the side in the second, getting the first OESJ batter looking at a fastball and next two looking at knuckle curves.
“Knuckle-curve, change, fastball. They were all working,” said Martin.
Heuvelton lost to Fort Ann in a 2013 regional final, 20-0, and Fort Ann went on to claim the state championship.
“When we heard Fort Ann wasn’t in it, we were happy,” said Martin. “That game last year wasn’t fun.”
Lynch thought his young group may have been looking ahead.
“The guys were talking final four, final four. I kept saying, ‘Guys, we’ve got to win regionals first,’ and they kept saying, ‘We got this,’” said Lynch. “Hopefully we’ll learn from this.”
Warriors, Indians win
Tyler Childrose pitched a one-hitter and had a sixth-inning sacrifice fly to lift Averill Park (13-11) past Jamesville-DeWitt (Section III, 19-4), 1-0, in a Class A regional semifinal at Onondaga Community College,
Childrose struck out six and gave up an infield single to Chris McGee in the sixth.
Averill Park will play Massena (Section X, 14-3) today at 1 at The College of Saint Rose’s Plumeri Complex. Massena advanced with a 3-2, eight-inning win over Peru (Secion VII, 10-7).
John Rooney scattered three hits and fanned 10 as Hoosic Valley (21-3) posted a 3-0 Class C regional semifinal win over Ticonderoga (Section VII, 16-3) at SUNY-Plattsburgh. Hoosic Valley meets Brushton-Moira (Section X, 15-1-1) today at 2 at Shuttleworth Park.
Schalmont (23-1) will travel to St. Lawrence University today for a Class B regional final at 4:30 against Ogdensburg Free Academy (Section X, 11-5). Ogdensburg advanced with an 8-5 win over Saranac (Section VII, 8-8) at SLU.
Shenendehowa (22-1) and Auburn (Section III, 12-9) play tonight at 7 at Joe Bruno Stadium in a Class AA regional final. Shenendehowa and Schalmont were eliminated in regional finals last season.
Heuvelton 130 440 2 — 14 11 0
OESJ 000 000 0 — 0 5 8
Martin and MacAuley; Vicciarelli, Smith (2), Trumble (5) and Johnson, Smith (6).