Make an error, make the next play. Miss location on a pitch, execute the next one. Ground out, get ready for the next at-bat.
That’s the Shenendehowa baseball way, and that stay-positive, move-forward approach has helped the Plainsmen get back to the state final four for the first time in nearly two decades.
Might help them go the distance, too.
“It’s all about trusting our preparation,” said second-year Shenendehowa coach Greg Christodulu. “A critical piece is the players bought into our vision, our plan. They’ve embraced it. It’s allowed us to be in a position to make history.”
Shenendehowa, Averill Park, Schalmont and Hoosic Valley will all attempt to do so when they gather in Binghamton and the surrounding area today for the season’s last set of games.
Shenendehowa (23-1) will meet Roy C. Ketcham (Section I, 23-3) in a Class AA semifinal at 1 at Maine-Endwell High School, following the 10 a.m. matchup between Victor (Section V, 19-4) and West Islip (Section XI, 21-5). The championship game is set for 4.
“We’d like to think getting here is a by-product of everything we do,” said Christodulu. “We focus on details. We break the game down into pieces. We focus on the fundamentals. Little things add up to big things.”
Shenendehowa has already accomplished a lot of big things, winning the overall Suburban Council title, a second straight Section II Class AA championship and its first regional title since 1996 with a 3-1 victory over Auburn.
Shenendehowa’s journey has been full of in-game bounce-back efforts. In the Auburn game, Shenendehowa overcame four errors to extend its winning streak to 10.
“We kicked some around. The guys were very resilient,” said Christodulu. “They didn’t get nervous. They played with a quiet confidence, and made the next play.”
Right fielder Matt Bloise turned in a huge play with the bases full in the seventh inning when he made a sliding two-out catch.
“It was a sinking liner,” said Christodulu. “It was a tough play, and he made it look easy.”
Christodulo doesn’t expect to have an easy time with Ketcham, which beat Elmira, 3-1, and Valley Central, 5-1, in regional games. Jacob Morgenstern had the key blow against Valley Central with a two-run triple.
“They’re a very potent offensive team,” said Christodulu. “Every one of their players is capable, and they have three very good pitchers.”
The Plainsmen do, as well, in Bryan Warzek (7-0), Aaron Kalish (5-0) and Ian Anderson (6-0), the son of Schalmont coach Bob Anderson. Warzek was an out away from finishing off Auburn when he walked a batter and another reached on an infield error. Anderson came on and gave up a hit before Bloise’s key grab.
“I was following the game on GameChanger and my wife and friends were texting me,” said Bob Anderson, who was on a bus ride back from St. Lawrence University after his Sabres beat Ogdensburg for their regional title. “I was very anxious. On the first batter, he got two quick strikes with fastballs, and I was yelling at the phone for him to throw a curve. Their kid got a hit, but in the end, everything worked out.”
Kalish went the distance when Shenendehowa beat Guilderland, 4-2, in the Section II quarterfinals. Warzek went the distance in a 5-0 semifinal win over Niskayuna, and the junior lefty got the win in relief of Kalish when the Plainsmen topped Christian Brothers Academy, 10-4, in the championship game.
“One of our strengths is pitching. We have a 1.34 team ERA or right around there, and that says a lot about what [assistant coach] Keith Lansley has done with our staff,” said Christodulu. “The guys have bought into our plan.”
As a high school player, Lansley pitched a perfect game against Schenectady when Shenendehowa won the 1994 Section II Class A title. That Plainsmen team ended up losing to North Rockland, 7-3, in the state semifinals. The 1996 Plainsmen went a bit further, beating Massapequa in a state semifinal, 13-2, before an 11-3 title-game loss to Vestal.
“Having the three pitchers gives us flexibility and depth,” said Christodulu. “That’s what you need when you’re trying to win a state championship in one day.”
Christodulu said he expects Ketcham to start Tim Zehnbauer (7-1), who gave up three hits when the Indians from Wappingers Falls beat Elmira. Kevin Duke and Morgenstern hit RBI singles in that game.
Shenendehowa got an RBI double from Connor Douglas, and Brennan McCormack had a fielder’s choice RBI when Shenendehowa took down Auburn. John Novenche was the big swinger against CBA with three doubles and five RBI.
“This game will come down to four or five pitches,” said Christodulu. “Who will take advantage of a pitch? Who will make a defensive play? Who will make the big pitch?”
Shenendehowa’s 2013 season ended with a regional loss to Baldwinsville.