June 5, 2013
Shaky start costs Purple Tigers
Queensbury holds on for 6-5 victory
ALBANY — The Cortland High baseball team almost overcame some uncharacteristic defensive shakiness with some characteristic grit Tuesday afternoon in the New York State Class A quarterfinals.
Thanks in part to four errors — the most they’ve made in a game this season — the Purple Tigers, ranked second in the state, found themselves down 6-1 to Section 2 champion Queensbury and standout pitcher Charlie Peltz after four innings at the Plumeri Sports Complex’s Bob Bellizzi Field.
A four-run sixth, keyed by junior shortstop Zach Whelan’s three-run home run, made it a one-run game, but then Peltz closed the door. He retired the last six batters he faced in order to preserve the Spartans’ 6-5 win.
Queensbury (20-5), the state’s sixth-ranked Class A squad, earned a trip to Saturday’s state Class A semifinals against No. 1 Bayport-Blue Point (25-0) from Section 11 at Binghamton’s NYSEG Stadium starting at 10 a.m. The winner there faces the winner of the other semifinal, set for 1 p.m. — either No. 4 Williamsville South (18-2) from Section 6 or No. 19 John Jay-Cross River (18-8) from Section 1 — in the 4 p.m. championship game.
“We were just really flat the first four innings. That wasn’t Cortland baseball,” said Purple Tigers coach Ben Albright, whose team finished the season 17-5 and won the championships of both the OHSL Freedom American Division and Section 3 Class A. “It was nice to see us get after it and battle back in the sixth.
“Queensbury is a good team and had their number one pitcher on the hill. It would have been nice to get a little bit better start. Maybe the long layoff made us a little too relaxed,” he added, CHS having won the sectional crown eight days before. “They won their sectionals last Friday and had a regional game (Monday), but I’m not blaming it on that. You have to show up ready to go. We simulated that and did the best we could.”
IN FRONT OF A crowd that had at least as many fans from Cortland as Queensbury despite being a virtual home game for the Spartans, CHS jumped out to a quick lead in the first.
Junior right fielder Caden Giroux reached base on an infield error with one out, went to third on a double to the gap in right-center by senior starter Brian Hughes — the first of seven Cortland hits in the game — and scored seconds later on a wild pitch.
Queensbury tied the game in the bottom of the first as freshman right fielder Erik Wettersten led off with a walk and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice by Peltz. The Spartans took the lead for good in the second as junior left fielder Zach Parsons lashed a two-out double to right-center right after a pitchout by Hughes on a squeeze play resulted in a rundown that left two runners on third, the trail runner erased after both were tagged by Hughes.
Two errors by Cortland — a mishandled double to left-center and an errant throw to first — helped Queensbury score twice in the third. A wide throw to third on a stolen base in the fourth, the first of two Purple Tiger errors in the frame, brought home the final run for the Section 2 champions.
Meanwhile, Peltz, who made Faces In The Crowd in the May 27 issue of Sports Illustrated after throwing three consecutive no-hitters this season, followed by a one hitter, seemed to be getting stronger. Despite apparently tweaking his leg on a third-inning pitch, he had allowed just three hits with eight strikeouts over the first five innings.
THAT CHANGED IN in the sixth as the Cortland bats came alive.
Junior center fielder Victor McCutcheon led off with a bunt single and scored as Giroux slammed a double over the head of junior Adam Troelstra, who had come in for Parsons in the top of the fifth. Hughes then reached on a bloop single to left before Whelan slammed Peltz’s first pitch over the fence in left to make it a one-run game.
“It was probably the last thing I expected to do,” Whelan said. “I knew that I’d hit it hard, but wasn’t sure if it would go over the fence. It was a great feeling to do something for the team, probably the greatest feeling of my life. After that we had some momentum going. Unfortunately we didn’t make the entire comeback, but this was fun to be part of.”
From there, however, Peltz again took over, retiring the next three batters in order, the last two on strikeouts. He also fanned the first CHS batter in the seventh before inducing a flyout and a groundout to end the game.
“We got a little lax in the sixth, let down a little,” Peltz said after improving to 11-0 with an ERA of 0.78 while surrendering seven hits and finishing with 11 strikeouts, giving him 127 in 72 innings this spring. “People overlook our defense; we had a few bloopers but played through it. We didn’t take them lightly and figured they’d fight back and make it close.”
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Spartans coach Jay Marra said when asked about the Purple Tiger comeback. “I knew they were a good-hitting team and kind of expected that. It ended up being a dogfight, which I thought it would be. I figured it would be a one-run game, a battle between two really talented teams, and that’s exactly what it was.
“After the top of the sixth, I told the guys to relax. We have a good defensive team, and I wasn’t worried. Offensively, the biggest thing was laying off Hughes’s split-finger, not helping him out by swinging at that and waiting on his fastball. It worked for us for awhile.”
HUGHES FINISHED THE season 5-3, having pitched against all of CHS’s toughest opponents. He allowed nine hits and four earned runs with six strikeouts in five innings. Senior Justin Sidebottom pitched a scoreless sixth with one walk, that batter promptly gunned down at second on a steal attempt by senior catcher Parker Williamson.
Hughes went 2-for-3 and McCutcheon 2-for-4, each with a run, to complement Whelan and his homer in leading Cortland offensively. Giroux (double, RBI, two runs) and Sidebottom had the other CHS hits. Junior first baseman Joe Marasco (RBI, two runs) and senior center fielder Alston Moses both went 2-for-2 for Queensbury, while Parsons was 2-for-3 with the two RBIs and junior shortstop Phil Wettersten 2-for-4.
“Seeing the number of fans we had at this game, not just parents but teachers and other community members, shows the impact this team had on Cortland,” Albright said. “Our senior leadership has been outstanding all season, which is what we expected. It’s been a fun ride, going farther than a Cortland team ever has. It was a great season, and it’s been memorable. It’s sad to see it end.”
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