UTICA — The wait was worth it for the McGraw baseball team Sunday.
The seventh-seeded Eagles’ Section 3 Class D championship game with top-seeded Lyme on Murnane Field’s Donovan Stadium was originally scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Because of heavy rain Saturday night and Sunday, the first pitch wasn’t thrown until 5:20 p.m. Then a third-inning injury suffered by an umpire caused a 25-minute delay as a replacement was made available.
When all was said and done, though, the Eagles took the lead for just the second time in the game in the top of the seventh inning and held on for a 4-3 win over the Indians, the fourth-ranked Class D team in the state, to claim their first-ever sectional championship.
“They stayed alert through the long delay getting the game started — coach (Sean) May helped with that — and when they needed the new umpire,” McGraw coach Ed Pickert said of his team, which is now 10-5 on the season. “This team is always focused; no matter what’s happened this year, they’ve worked hard and fought back.”
It happened again Sunday night. The Eagles scored a run in the top of the first inning before the Indians scored twice in the bottom of the frame to go up 2-1. McGraw tied the score at 2-2, then rallied again for a 3-3 tie with a run in the sixth before the decisive seventh.
Senior first baseman Jaycob White singled with two outs in the fateful inning before junior starting and winning pitcher Brendan May was intentionally walked. With White breaking toward third on an 0-2 count, senior third baseman Tyler Card hit a slow roller to third and beat the throw to first for an RBI single as White kept on coming and slid home safely with the decisive run. May then set down the side in order for the fourth time in five innings, a game-ending groundout setting off a joyous pile of Eagles in front of first base.
“I knew we had to be a little aggressive and make sure the kids put pressure on the other team defensively and forced them to make plays,” Pickert said. “They listened, and did that.”
“Coach had me steal and once I got there, told me to wait until the third baseman threw the ball to first, and I did,” White said. “I knew when I rounded third that I was going to score.”
“With people on base all season long, the coaches have told us to put the ball in play and make the defense do work, put pressure on them,” Card said. “That’s what we did. All I knew was that I had to hustle down the line. To my surprise, I turned and saw Jaycob score.”
“They had a good pitcher and we couldn’t make the plays behind ours; two of their runs were unearned,” Lyme coach Rob Goutremout said quietly after the game had ended and his team had closed at 14-2-1. “Zach (Goutremout, the Indians’ starting pitcher and the coach’s son) gave it everything he had; it’s not on him. We played great for 99 percent of the season, but couldn’t get it right today.”
Brendan May finished with a sixhitter, not allowing any earned runs and totaling 14 strikeouts, including seven in a row through the third and fourth innings plus the first batter in the fifth. “My fastball was working, I had good movement on my curve and my juiced fastball, when I bring it down harder on my delivery, worked well, too,” the right-hander said. “Lyme is a very good-hitting team. With most teams you can relax on a few batters, but today I had to focus and couldn’t relax on any of them. We always work hard as a team. I’m happy that these guys are with me…I wouldn’t want any other teammates.”
The Eagles opened the scoring in the first as Brendan May drew a twoout walk, stole second and continued to third on the mishandled throw before scoring on a single to center by Card.
Lyme answered with two runs in the first. Junior catcher Trevor Weston led off with a single up the middle, went to second when a pickoff throw hit his helmet and went out of play, stole third one out later and scored with two outs when a fly ball to the outfield by sophomore first baseman Tyler Wilson was mishandled. Wilson ended up on second, went to third on a balk and scored on a single to right by freshman second baseman Mikey Flyzik.
McGraw tied the score in the third. Senior catcher Chris Pickert hit a bloop infield single behind the mound with two out, headed for third on a sacrifice bunt by White and scored when the throw back across from Wilson got past senior third baseman Padraic Williams. The third base umpire turned and suffered a leg injury on the play, ending his night early.
Weston doubled to left-center with one out in the third and, one out later, stole third and scored as the throw sailed into left field to give the Indians a 3-2 lead. McGraw came back to tie the score again in the sixth. Second baseman Michael Levitskiy beat out an infield single with one out, went to third on a two-out bloop single to right by Logan Eaton and scored on a passed ball with sophomore pinch-hitter Mason Eaton at the plate.
Logan Eaton went 2-for-3 for the Eagles while Card (two RBIs) and Pickert (run) both had 2-for-4 games. Weston went 3-for-4 with the double and two runs for Lyme.
McGraw advances to the Class D regional finals (quarterfinals) in the state tournament, facing Section 4 champion South Kortright, 15-2 and ranked 11th in the state, Saturday starting at 3 p.m. at Onondaga Community College.