The game ended the same way a couple late Plainsmen scoring threats ended, with an easy fly ball landing in an outfielder’s glove.
Shenendehowa reached the Class AA state championship game Saturday with a gutty performance on the mound earlier in the day from Bryan Warzek, and then the Plainsmen fell to Section V champion Victor, 3-0, as starting pitcher Dale Wickham kept the Plainsmen just off balance at Maine-Endwell High School’s Gary Crooks Field.
“You’ve got to tip your hat,” Shenendehowa coach Greg Christodulu said about Wickham. “He pitched a wonderful game. He spotted the ball, he changed speeds. When you have a lot of fly balls with a line-drive-hitting team, that means their timing’s off. That’s what you saw today. We popped the ball up a lot.”
Wickham used just 72 pitches — 52 of them strikes — to throw the complete-game shutout. He walked one and struck out two, allowing five hits and relying on his defense to do its job.
“He had some good stuff today,” said Shenendehowa’s Wake Forest-bound Justin Yurchak. “We tried to jump on the fastballs when we could. We hit some balls hard, they made the plays and ended up beating us.”
Yurchak was 1-for-3 in the finals, leading off the bottom of the sixth inning with a single but getting stranded by two fly balls to end the inning.
An inning earlier, Brad Pearson led off with a double, but the next two batters flied out, and a groundout ended the threat.
The Plainsmen also got a leadoff double from Kyle McAlonie in the first inning, and he took third on a sacrifice bunt from Brennan McCormack. However, Yurchak grounded back to the mound, and Wickham caught McAlonie
in a rundown. He was tagged out near the plate, but Yurchak was able to reach third with two outs. A groundout ended that threat.
With two outs in the fourth, the Plainsmen loaded the bases, but a bouncer back to the mound allowed Wickham to escape the jam.
Despite the trouble stringing hits together when they needed them, trailing only 2-0 through six innings, the Plainsmen felt they had a comeback in them.
“I know this team has the capability of scoring more than two runs in any inning,” Yurchak said. “So I knew we had a chance as long as we brought the energy to the plate and did what we can do.”
Victor took its 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, leading off with three straight doubles. Wickham finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run and an RBI.
Shenendehowa starter Aaron Kalish, who will head to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall, threw 62⁄3 innings, striking out eight and walking one.
Shenendehowa beat Section I champ Ketcham, 5-0, despite Warzek pitching himself into some trouble a few times. Every time, he pitched himself out of it, stranding 11 Ketcham baserunners, six of them in scoring position.
Warzek started the game by hitting Jacob Morgenstern with his first pitch. Catcher’s interference allowed the next batter, Mark Joao, to reach safely. Then Warzek hit Jordan Bishop to load the bases with no outs.
He responded by striking out cleanup hitter Timothy Zehnbauer. After a flyout to shallow center that did not allow the runners to advance, he struck out Tyler Cinelli to end the inning.
The junior said he didn’t let a raucous Ketcham student section near the bullpen throw him off, but he did have a little trouble with command.
“In the bullpen, obviously, they brought their fan section,” Warzek said. “I didn’t let it bother me, but the first inning got a little rough. Some of my pitches weren’t working, but I got out of it, and then my batters, they did what they do.”
He finished the complete-game, two-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts, four walks and two hit batsmen.
Yurchak was 2-for-4 with a solo home run, and Pearson was 2-for-3 with a triple, two runs and an RBI. McAlonie also doubled, scored a run and drove one in.
The Plainsmen lose nine seniors to graduation. Christodulu said he wasn’t saddened by the loss as much as the end of an outstanding season. The championship-game loss was just the second of the campaign, against 24 wins.
“It was a great group to work with,” Christodulu said. “There was outstanding leadership, there’s personalities that will not be matched, and they built on the foundation of the 2013 team, which did a marvelous job of buying into what we were teaching and the vision we had. This group just brought it to another level.”
Victor 000 200 1 — 3 9 2
Shenendehowa 000 000 0 — 0 5 0
Wickham and Prong; Kalish, Anderson (7) and Pearson.
Shenendehowa 000 120 2 — 5 7 2
Ketcham 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Warzek and Pearson; Zehnbauer, Levy (6), D’Anna (6), Blum (7) and Alonzo.