May 28, 2013
Champ CHS a weekend wonder
Kennedy two-hitter stops Spartans in Class A final
ROME — Three was indeed the charm for the Cortland High baseball team Monday afternoon.
A third strong complete-game pitching performance in their third post-season game in three days helped the third-seeded Purple Tigers become Section 3’s Class A champions with a 4-1 win over top-seed and defending champion New Hartford at Rome’s DeLutis Field.
Sophomore Quinn Kennedy took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and wound up holding the powerful Spartans to just two hits with five strikeouts, the one run unearned, as CHS (17-4) made some of its own special memories on Memorial Day – including a police escort back into town from the city limits down Main Street and over to Beaudry Park — with the program’s first-ever sectional crown.
Kennedy’s performance came after senior Brian Hughes threw a one-hitter in a 3-0 quarterfinal win over No. 6 Syracuse CBA Saturday at Beaudry and senior Justin Sidebottom allowed host and second-seed Watertown just two hits Sunday as Cortland won 3-1 (see related story).
In all, then, the Purple Tiger mound trio has surrendered a total of five hits and two runs, both unearned, in three postseason games, with 15 strikeouts (five apiece).
“I knew I had to try my best to do anything I could to help us win,” said Kennedy, now 3-1 this season with an ERA of 2.76 after following in the mound footsteps of CHS’s senior co-captains.
“I just focused on that. I had my knuckle curve working and also my two-seam fastball. I went almost totally with that. I only threw one four-seam the whole game,” he added. “I knew I had the no-hitter going. The defense was very helpful today. The outfield did a good job of reading fly balls, and Sage (Brown) made a great play at second.”
Brown got to a ball to his left and flipped it from his glove to Hughes at first for the first out of the seventh.
“FOR A SOPHOMORE to go out there and pitch so well, a two-hit complete game...” Cortland coach Ben Albright said, shaking his head in happy amazement, still wet from a post-game ice-water soaking. “Their first hit didn’t faze him at all. We knew he’d pitch well, but that well... how is he going to top that the next two years? Our pitching in sectionals has made it easy on our bats. We haven’t had to score that many runs.”
“Quinn got more confident as the game went on, once he settled down,” New Hartford coach Jon King said, his team finishing the season at 13-10. “We didn’t have enough good outs, enough hard-hit balls. We needed to get those after the first two innings, because his confidence skyrocketed. He locked us up a lot, and once they got three or four runs it was going to be a struggle to come back.”
It took until the third inning for the Purple Tigers to reach Spartans senior pitcher Tory King. Junior center fielder Victor McCutcheon singled off the left-hander’s glove with one out before junior right fielder Caden Giroux singled to right to put men on first and third. McCutcheon scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Hughes and junior shortstop Zach Whelan singled before King got the final out to escape further damage.
“That’s a ball that Tory is going to field 19 out of 20 times,” Randall said of McCutcheon’s single. “He’s a center fielder too; either he took his eyes off it or it came harder than he thought.”
Kennedy had issued back-to-back walks with two outs in the first and then retired 10 batters in a row before King reached on an infield error to lead off the bottom of the fifth. He was promptly gunned down by senior catcher Parker Williamson trying to steal second, and Kennedy got the next two batters on infield fly balls.
THE WINNERS GOT some breathing room in a three-run sixth in which they collected four hits. Whelan singled to center with one out and sophomore third baseman Andrew Babcock singled up the middle to put men on first and second. King then walked sophomore designated hitter Justin Prentice to load the bases before Sidebottom slashed a single up the middle to score Whelan and Babcock. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third before Prentice was extinguished at home on a botched squeeze play, Sidebottom going to third and scoring on a single to center by Williamson to make it 4-0.
“Those three runs gave us some breathing room, and the kids realized that the championship was ours to get,” Albright said. “King looked a little tired and was getting his fastball up, and wasn’t throwing his curve for strikes as consistently. He’s a good pitcher, and a tough kid. We told Quinn to go pitch with the lead, and he threw strikes.”
New Hartford got its first hit with two outs in the bottom of the sixth as junior first baseman Steve Tomaino singled to left. He went to second on a wild pitch, but it looked like Kennedy had survived the threat until a fly ball by junior left fielder Ben Phelps was dropped in the outfield, allowing Tomaino to score. Kennedy kept his composure and promptly fanned the Spartans’ cleanup hitter, junior catcher Connor Manderson, to end the inning.
“I just tried to stay strong,” Kennedy said. “I knew I had some runs to work with. We all just had to move on from there.”
After Hughes and Giroux singled but were stranded in the top of the seventh, Kennedy retired the first two New Hartford batters in order before junior third baseman Mark Chanatry singled to left. Back-to-back infield errors then loaded the bases before Kennedy got senior center fielder Matt Desens to fly out to Giroux in right to end the game, the Purple Tigers then converging in a celebratory pile near the third-base line.
“I KNEW I HAD to throw strikes,” said Kennedy of the final-inning threat. “With our defense I knew we could get the final out and when we did, it was pure happiness and relief.”
“Everyone was jacked up to get the last out,” Albright said. “Quinn was making great pitches and they were hitting slow rollers, which gave us too much time to think. But this is a good fielding team, and it was just a matter of time before we got the last out.”
The CHS co-captains were both somewhat lost for words once everyone unpiled and the Purple Tigers had been presented with and photographed holding their Section 3 championship banner.
“I don’t know what to say,” Hughes said with a grin. “The feeling is unreal. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Sidebottom said. “I can’t process it; it’s awesome. Quinn did some big-time pitching today; I can’t wait to see him as a senior. He was clutch.”
“I’m happy for the kids,” Albright said. “They know what’s expected of them. We’ve had great leadership from our captains and the rest of the seniors, and they all get along, which makes it fun to see them every day.
“We had a goal sheet before the season that included winning our Partigianoni Tournament, winning the league (OHSL Freedom American Division), being a State Scholar-Athlete team, being in every game in the seventh inning and winning the sectional championship. They all had signed, and I told them it was check, check, check and check, with just one thing left to do, so let’s get it done. They were all over it,” the coach added.
Cortland advances to regional play (state quarterfinals) a week from today, on the road with the time to be determined. According to Albright, his team will face either the Section 2 champion at The College of St. Rose in Albany or the Section 10 champion at Clarkson University in Potsdam.
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