May 25, 2012
Trojans back in the swing
Open Class B play beating IHC, 7-3
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Homer’s Kevin McNeil slides safely into second under the tag of a Watertown IHC player in the second inning of Thursday’s Section 3 Class B playoff game. Homer advanced with a 7-3 victory.
It was a well-rested Homer Central baseball team that began the Section 3 Class B-1 tournament action with a formula that generated 10 straight wins and 14 wins in 15 games at one juncture of the regular season.
The second-seeded Trojans got solid pitching from senior Kevin McNeil and junior Jared McGee, sure-handed defense and an offensive outburst that bolted to a 7-0 lead over the first four innings against Watertown IHC. Host Homer went on to post post a 7-3 win over the visitors to advance to the semifinal round Saturday.
The Trojans (15-3) will host third-seed Utica Notre Dame — a 5-1 winner over sixth-seed Marcellus (11-9) — in a game slated for 11 a.m.
The other Class B-1 semifinal Saturday will feature top-seed Westhill (17-4) hosting the fifth-seed Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (14-5). The Warriors posted a 2-0 victory over eighth-seed Solvay (12-10), while V-V-S was a 6-1 winner over fourth-seed South Jefferson (11-9).
“It was nice to see the bats wake up again,” Homer coach Robert Nasiatka said. “We did not strike out and we put the ball in play.
“IHC made some nice plays that robbed us of more runs,” he continued. “Overall, I’m happy to get that first win out of the way. The plan is still in place so we will just wait and see who we will play Saturday.”
“It was nice to get back to the way we have played most of the year,” McNeil said, Homer having dropped back-to-back games to end the regular season and wind up second in the OHSL Liberty Division. “Things started to click and we got on a roll. It works out well when you do get rolling along.”
McNeil (3-1 this season) was strong from the start, retiring 10 straight batters until a one-out triple by Santino Alteri in the top of the fourth inning. That was the first ball out of the infield as McNeil fanned five Cavaliers, induced four ground outs and one pop-up to first baseman Leo Riley. An infield fly and strikeout left Alteri stranded at third in the inning.
“KEVIN PITCHED WELL,” Nasiatka said. “He kept the ball down in the zone and mixed his pitches well.
“There is a reason Alteri is going to Creighton to play Division I ball,” he continued. “He has all the tools. Alteri adjusted after Kevin struck him out in the first inning. It was fun to watch two good athletes going at it.”
“I was solid with my control today,” McNeil said. “I really wasn’t thinking about the no-hitter. I just concentrated on making pitches.
“I was able to keep the ball down so the infielders had to get some work and stay on their toes. It helps when you can make those pitches and the guys are there to back you up.”
Homer took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Chase Davis (2-for-3) got a one-out single, but was erased on McNeil’s fielder’s choice. McNeil stole second and scored when Alteri made a rare mistake at shortstop as Brent Quinlan’s ball rolled into left field. McNeil rounded third and scored as Quinlan dashed to second base because no one was covering the base. Quinlan gave the Trojans a 2-0 lead as he scored on Payten Boice’s single.
The Trojans manufactured another run in the second as McNeil drew a one-out walk. Quinlan singled to put runners at first and second. McNeil stole third to put runners at the corners. Quinlan would then attempt to steal second and got in a rundown. McNeil dashed home and Quinlan would return to first base safely after getting out of the rundown.
Homer pulled away with four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Taylor Withiam began the attack with a one-out single. Riley (2-for-3) followed with a single as Withiam raced to third. The ball was bobbled in centerfield so Withiam raced home for a 4-0 Trojan lead. Mike Hartnett hit a fly ball to right field that was dropped. Riley also took advantage and scooted to third base. Jake Casey singled home Riley as Hartnett headed to third base.
Homer pulled off a double steal as Casey went to second and Hartnett scored from first. Casey stole third base and scored on a sacrifice fly by Davis for a 7-0 lead.
McNEIL RETIRED IHC in order on a flyball to centerfield and two more groundouts in the top of the fifth inning and began the sixth with his seventh strikeout before the IHC bats came alive for a brief flurry. Cyrus Beckman singled and triggered a sequence of four straight Cavalier hits. Beckman moved to second base on a single by Shane Garrabrant before Alteri smacked a triple into left-centerfield to score both runners as the Trojans’ advantage was trimmed to 7-2. Al Davis singled to drive in Alteri with the final IHC run.
McNeil recorded his eighth strikeout for the second out of the inning, but the Trojans made the pitching change by bringing in McGee. He got an inning-ending ground out and retired IHC after four batters in the seventh to seal the victory.
“We were able to go with guys who are not our number one pitcher, but , right now, Jared is pitching better than anyone else,” Nasiatka said. “Kevin is pitching well too. It was nice to get through this one. It really was a team effort.”
“We definitely have some depth,” McNeil said of the Trojan pitching staff. “It’s nice to have a couple of JV guys who can come up and fill in when we need them. The rest of us are pitching well, but it’s our main two main starters who have done great this season.
“I’m not worried about numbers,” he added on his season long performance. “It’s all about winning.”
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