December 2, 2021

S. Kortright routs McGraw in regionals

NYSPHSAA Class D Baseball

Keri Jo May/photo provided

McGraw’s Brendan May rounds third base as coach Ed Pickert looks on. The Eagles’ season came to an end with a 13-0 loss to Section 4’s South Kortright in the NYSPHSAA regionals Saturday at Onondaga Community College.

SYRACUSE — Numbers and emotion combined to help finish the McGraw baseball team’s stellar season Saturday afternoon. A sharp opposing pitcher figured into the equation, as well.

The undermanned Eagles, the seventh seed that became the school’s first sectional baseball champion, with three comeback victories in as many postseason contests coming in, couldn’t rally against Section 4 champion South Kortright in a NYSPHSAA regional (quarterfinal) game at Onondaga CC. Junior pitcher Logan Kaufman allowed three hits over six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts for the win as the Rams romped, 13-0.

“I told them I was very proud of them,” head coach Ed Pickert said of the post-game talk he and assistant coach Shawn May gave the team, which came in ranked fifth in the state in Class D, after its 11-6 season had come to a close. “They never gave up; they gave it all they had, and with nine guys most of the season, 10 before sectionals, going this long they were whipped.

“I think winning sectionals was part of it; that was a high that they stayed on all week. We worked hard in practice this week, but tried to keep things light.”

“It’s hard to get that high and stay that high,” said senior Tyler Card, who played third base and catcher during the contest, tripled and walked twice. “We didn’t play like McGraw today,” said senior Chris Pickert, the coach’s son, who saw time as both a catcher and pitcher on the day.

Senior right-hander Brendan May, the ace of the Eagles pitching staff, started and took the loss, giving up six runs, three of them earned, in four-plus innings of work on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. His teammates committed five of their six errors in the game behind him.

“There’s been a lot of pressure on Brendan, and he’s done a great job all year,” Ed Pickert said. “This is the first game that he hasn’t done as well as he wanted to. We’ve leaned on him all year long, and knew there would be a day that he didn’t have his stuff. Today was that day.”

May also played at shortstop and catcher after being relieved by Chris Pickert four batters into the fifth inning.

“Coming into the game we knew they had a good pitcher and that we had to put the ball in play, because we knew they might have some holes out there,” South Kortright coach Bob VanValkenburgh said. “Kaufman pitched out of some jams, we made all the plays and kept hitting at the right times, scoring a few more runs.”

The Rams, now 16-2 on the season and ranked third in the state in Class D, got all the runs they’d need in the top of the first inning. Senior second baseman Aidan Fox got things started with a one-out infield single, went to second on a groundout and scored on a bloop single down the right field line by junior third baseman Austin Lamport. A wild pitch sent Lamport to second, and he scored when the throw to first on an infield single by sophomore first baseman Tyler Hall went wide.

That was all the run support Kaufman would need. “I had good movement on my fastball,” he said. “I was just trying to throw strikes and trust my infield behind me. They had my back. On offense, we were just trying to make noise in the dugout and get into their heads. We wanted to make them have to make plays.”

The Rams added a run in the third as Fox reached third after two infield errors on the same play and came home on a groundout. They doubled their lead in the three-run fifth, an infield error bringing home the first run before Lamport cracked a tworun double to left-center. The winners then added two runs in the sixth and five more in the seventh, Lamport with a two-run single up the middle in the latter frame to complete a 3-for-4 game with a double, five RBIs and a run scored.

McGraw threatened in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings but came up empty. Senior first baseman Jaycob White led off the fourth with the Eagles’ first hit of the game, a single to center, went to second on a passed ball and was thrown out trying to steal third before Card tripled down the right field line, stranded moments later by an inning-ending flyout. Senior left fielder David Simmonds walked to lead off the fifth and went to second when senior right fielder Logan Eaton was hit by a pitch. Kaufman then got a strikeout, groundout and flyout to end the inning.

Brendan May singled to right with one out in the sixth for the Eagles’ third and final hit. Card then walked before a flyout and groundout ended the inning. Freshman Patrick Dengler relieved Kaufman in the seventh and struck out the side to end the game and send the Rams to their first-ever state Final Four. They’ll face Whitehall (16-2) from Section 2 at 5 p.m. Friday on Conlon Field in Binghamton after the state’s second-ranked D team crushed Section 9 champion Livingston Manor 21-0 in a five-inning mercy rule regional game Saturday.

In addition to Lamport, Fox (four runs) and Kaufman (two runs) both went 2-for-4 for South Kortright and junior catcher Chris Champlin was 2-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and a run.

“I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids,” Ed Pickert said in summing things up. “They stuck with it, worked hard all year and, with the help of coach May, improved ten-fold. It was a memorable season.”

Saturday’s game ended the high school athletic careers of seniors Brendan May, Chris Pickert, Card, Simmonds, White and Eaton. May, Pickert and Card will leave high school with the distinction of having been members of sectional championship teams in three sports: boys soccer in 2016, boys’ basketball in 2017-18 and baseball this spring.