April 8, 2013
CHS takes title beating Trojans
Brian Hughes had some extra incentive heading into Saturday’s championship game of the Cortland High baseball team’s annual Partigianoni Tournament.
The Purple Tigers were playing rival Homer Central at Beaudry Park in the title game, the same matchup as last year when — with Hughes unavailable — the Trojans won the crown with an 8-5 win in eight innings.
That’s why the senior right-hander wanted to make a difference this time around, and help his team regain the championship.
Done and done. S tarter Hughes pitched five innings of scoreless two-hit ball with seven strikeouts to earn the win and, for good measure, had two hits and scored twice as Cortland scored a 9-2 victory.
The hosts had qualified for the showdown by opening their season with a 6-1 first-round win over McGraw at Beaudry, while Homer also advanced in its season opener by nipping Dryden 1-0 at Barry School’s Dave Guido Field (see related story).
“I asked coach six times this week if I’d pitch against Homer if we both made it to the championship game,” said Hughes, who now has 103 strikeouts in his varsity career. “I was pumped. Whenever we play Homer, there’s more at stake. My fastball was working and so was my forkball, or splitter, and I used a slider to keep them off-balance.”
The game started as a pitcher’s duel between Hughes and Homer senior right-hander Peyten Boice. Hughes had a perfect game through four innings before allowing two hits in the fifth, while Boice worked three strong innings with eight strikeouts, allowing only one hit, issuing two walks and hitting a batter.
“Peyten and I have always been going against each other,” Hughes said. “He’s a pretty good friend, and it was more of a pitch count with him with the league games they have next week. It was fun to have a pitcher’s duel for awhile, and later on we’ll meet again when both of us can go longer.”
“I was very impressed with Brian, and very happy that we got to see him before a game that counts,” Trojans coach Rob Nasiatka said, both Homer and CHS ready to get the OHSL Freedom Division underway this week. “Cortland is a very solid team, with a good core, and hopefully the league will end up being between us two and Jamesville-Dewitt. We’re at J-D Tuesday, and Peyten will get the ball. I couldn’t be happier with the way he pitched.”
“IT WAS FRUSTRATING to lose that game, and we’ve been thinking about it for a year,” Cortland coach Ben Albright said of last year’s tournament final. “The kids made a statement. Brian did a good job in a big game, and we have some wiggle room as next week goes on so he’ll be ready later in the week. Homer has a great team, and Peyten is a great pitcher. If we saw him for seven innings it wouldn’t have been a 9-2 game but more like 1-0 or 2-0.
“Quinn (Kennedy, sophomore reliever) had a little trouble but worked through it and finished well. We made a couple of errors on the day, which we have to clean up a little, but the defense did a good job.”
Neither team was able to score until the top of the fourth inning, when CHS (the visitors after a pre-game coin flip) nicked junior Millett DeAngles — the first of four Homer relievers — for an unearned run. Senior left fielder Justin Sidebottom reached on an infield error, went to third when one play produced two more errors and scored on a perfect suicide squeeze bunt by Kennedy, who at that time was playing first base.
Cortland got another run off DeAngles in the fifth as Hughes reached on a one-out infield single, stole second, went to third on a groundout and came home on a double to right-center by sophomore third baseman Andrew Babcock.
The key defensive play of the game came in the fifth, when Homer got both of its hits against Hughes and had men on second and third with two outs. Senior third baseman Tom Belton slashed a liner to left that looked to have tie game written all over it, but Sidebottom had other ideas and made a spectacular diving catch coming in to end the inning.
“Justin had a great day; that was a senior stepping up,” Albright said. “If he doesn’t make that play, it’s a different game.”
“If that ball gets down, it’s a whole new ballgame,” Nasiatka said. “We look forward to seeing them in two weeks (April 23 at Homer).”
THE WINNERS BLEW the game open with six runs in the top of the sixth off two Homer relievers, junior Darius Stevens and senior Jared McGee, on four hits, two walks, a hit batter and a run-scoring balk. Sophomore designated hitter Justin Prentice had a two-run single to center and Sidebottom an RBI double to left-center to key the frame, while a bases-loaded walk to Babcock, the balk and a single to center by junior second baseman Sage Brown, scoring senior pinch-runner Jordan Prignon, accounted for the other runs.
Brown was thrown out at second trying for a double, Albright pleased with his aggressive play as well as the fact that Prignon hustled and crossed home with the run before Brown was extinguished.
The Trojans scored both of their runs off Kennedy in the bottom of the sixth. Junior left fielder Igor Sokolik led off with a walk and went to second on a single to right by second baseman Jake Hayes. A balk moved each runner up a base and, one out later, Sokolik scored on a wild pitch by Kennedy. Hayes went to third on the same play and scored when Boice reached on an error.
A single Purple Tiger run off Hayes in the seventh closed out the scoring, junior right fielder Caden Giroux singling to deep short with two outs, moving to third as Trojan miscues on consecutive plays loaded the bases and scoring on a walk to Babcock. Kennedy then allowed only a single by Belton in the bottom of the seventh to close things out.
“We figure that this is our tournament, and we wanted to make a statement early,” Albright said. ‘We’re going to win games; these kids are tough and battle every day.”
Hughes was 2-for-5 with two runs scored for Cortland, while junior center fielder Connor Simonetta went 2-for-3 for Homer.
Cortland 6, McGraw 1: The Purple Tigers scored five times in the bottom of the first inning against McGraw to erase a 1-0 deficit and never looked back en route to their 6-1 win.
The Eagles, who had opened their season a day earlier with an 8-3 Central Counties League victory at Stockbridge Valley, got their early run off CHS senior starter and winner Justin Travis.
Senior center fielder Aaron Hitt walked with one out, stole second and went to third on a single left by senior shortstop Nick Cowen, who in turn stole second before a groundout by senior catcher Wayne Buerkle plated Hitt.
Junior center fielder Victor McCutcheon led off the bottom of the first with a bunt single and stole second before Giroux walked. A double steal then put runners on second and third, McCutcheon scoring the tying run on a wild pitch before Hughes walked. Hughes stole second before he and Giroux both came home on a single to center by junior shortstop Zach Whelan, who went to second on an errant throw back to the infield.
An infield error allowed Babcock to reach base and go to second as Whelan scored, and Travis then singled to left-center to score Babcock and make it 5-1. Babcock also scored the game’s final run in the third, walking with one out, stealing second and going to third on a wild pitch before Travis singled to right for his second hit and second RBI of the game.
All told, Travis allowed four hits and the one run in four innings with three strikeouts while Sidebottom got the save by hurling the final three scoreless frames, giving up a single hit with six strikeouts — all coming among the last seven batters he faced.
McGraw junior hurler Chris Sweeney went the distance, settling down and retiring the last 11 batters he faced after CHS scored its final run.
Each team managed just five hits in the game. Travis and Cowen both went 2-for-2, Travis with the two RBIs.
“It felt good to help myself out,” Travis said of his offensive contributions. “It was good to get runs early; the team played well, which is the most important thing. We were anxious for the game, and it felt good to get the bat on the ball.
“My curve was working well, and giving up the run didn’t affect me. I knew I had to do a good job.”
“After the first inning, everyone settled down,” Eagles coach Abe Johnson said. “Chris pitched great and he kept them off-balance by mixing it up well. We have to do a better job of getting guys home with less than two outs.
“We like playing in this tournament. It gives us an opportunity to see better teams and has helped us in league play and sectionals the last couple of years.”
Cortland opens league play by hosting Mexico Tuesday at Beaudry, while McGraw is also back in action on Tuesday, against visiting Blessed Virgin Mary Academy. Both games are slated to start at 4:30 p.m.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe