By GIB SNYDER III
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
VESTAL - The old baseball adage, "It's not how hard you throw it, but where you throw it," rang true Saturday at Binghamton University as Briarcliff's soft-tossing lefty, Josh Miller, stymied the Dunkirk offense, helping the Bears to a 6-2 win in the semifinals of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's Class B baseball championships.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
Dunkirk’s?Vince Bomasuto rips a triple during the seventh inning of the New York?State Public High?School?Athletic Association Class B high school baseball semifinals?Saturday.
"He's an up-down-in-and-out kid," Dunkirk coach Frank Jagoda said of Miller. "We hadn't seen a left handed pitcher all year except when we played Elkins out of West Virginia. We saw one lefty there, other than me throwing batting practice."
Miller allowed two runs on five hits while striking out eight, walking three and hitting a batter.
"Maybe we should have done a little bit more of me throwing batting practice," Jagoda said. "The first few innings we were way ahead of him. He certainly wasn't overpowering, but he had a presence on the mound like Vin (Bomasuto) does."
The Marauders got off to a good start in the bottom of the first, loading the bases with two outs on a single by Marquel Ruiz, a hit batsmen to Clayton Cieslewicz and a walk to Drew Messina, but Miller got Max Schrantz to fly out to second baseman John Fussel to end the threat.
"It's the same stage for everybody," Jagoda said. "You've got to come out here and stick your chest out a little bit and I thought that we did that, we just didn't do it enough."
Bomasuto worked two scoreless frames to open the game, before the Bears pushed a run across in the top half of the third. With two outs, leadoff hitter Ryan Huegel singled, moved to second after Brendan Weinstein walked and scored on a Fussel single.
"He had that adrenaline going," Jagoda said of Bomasuto's early-innings success. "That adrenaline carried us through the first couple of innings, but (Briarcliff) was sitting there waiting. In this day and age with the Internet, you can just read about anything. We read a little bit about their guy and we knew what we were getting and they knew what they were getting."
See DUNKIRK,?Page B5
After the threat in the first inning, Miller struck out the side in the second, before getting Nick Ahlstrom swinging to open the third. Bomasuto ended Miller's consecutive strikeout streak there as he stepped to the plate and got the hit Dunkirk needed, launching a long home run over the left field fence to tie the game 1-all.
"What can you say about Vin Bomasuto?" Jagoda said. "He has had the best four consecutive seasons from baseball to football to basketball and back to baseball that I have ever seen from an athlete at Dunkirk High School. If you talk to people from the 1960s and 70s, nobody has put up the numbers that that young man has put up."
That would be all the offense the Marauders would muster until the bottom of the seventh as the Bears began to build their lead, scoring an unearned run in the fourth, two more unearned runs in the fifth and two runs in the sixth.
The Briarcliff run in the fourth came as the result of Ruiz mishandling potential double-play ball while the runs in the fifth came home after Cieslewicz was unable to field a ball cleanly at third.
"I think that's where we got caught up a little bit in the moment," Jagoda said of his team's defensive miscues. "I called six pickoff plays and we didn't do one. And maybe that's part of where our minds were at when something went wrong. We didn't really recover and we had been able to recover all season.
"Obviously if we make that play up the middle, either (Ruiz) takes it himself or he flips it properly, nobody scores," Jagoda continued. "It's monumental what happened out there. It just gave (Briarcliff) so much momentum and a base hit here and a tough at-bat by (Brendan Weinstein) to lead off an inning ... Some of the things we've done all year didn't happen (Saturday)."
Despite allowing only three earned runs, Bomasuto struggled with his location, leaving pitches up in the strike zone, making it easier on the Bears' offense to pick their pitches to hit.
"It's the placement of the fastball," Jagoda said of why Briarcliff was able to have success against Bomasuto. "It's the placement of pitches. And they were aggressive. I don't think they had any real, real bad swings. They were solid one through nine and they put the ball in play. What we were going to try and do to them, they did to us."
Bomasuto finished allowing six runs (three earned) on eight hits while striking out three and walking one and hitting one batter.
Dunkirk's final run of the game came after Bomasuto connected for a triple with two outs in the seventh and scored on a wild pitch.
"The other team had the stage too," Jagoda said. "You've got to perform. I think we were ready. I thought Vin throwing up a couple of zeros got us off to a good start. We saw (Miller) once and again, I thought we hit the ball. I was concerned that he struck out four guys in the first two innings, because he hadn't struck out many guys all year from what we had seen. But if you look at it later on, other than a couple of at-bats in the lower half of the order, we really bore down and didn't strike out at all."
Jagoda had nothing but praise for his senior trio which included Ahlstrom, Bomasuto and centerfielder Seth Grupa.
"I spoke to the kids about each and every one of them," Jagoda said of his three seniors. "I spoke about Seth (Grupa) of his sacrifice of playing just the outfield and being DH'd for, for the last 10 or 12 games. And I appreciated that. Nick Ahlstrom has done everything you could ask of a student athlete and his game of baseball has improved dramatically from the time he was a sophomore to the time he was a senior.
"What I told the kids was to look at (the seniors) as examples of true Dunkirk baseball players," Jagoda continued. "And I hope the young guys understand that and they work just as hard as those guys did to get better for the Dunkirk baseball program."
With a team that was laden with underclassmen this year, the future seems bright for Jagoda's Marauders and he hopes they will continue to work hard.
"We've got four guys that were sitting there watching it," Jagoda said of his underclassmen. "We're only losing three guys, but it isn't easy getting here. Don't let anybody kid you. To get to this point, everything's got to be aligned. But I think the younger kids understand how difficult it is and how hard they have to work."
From the Friday morning tour that saw the Marauders cheered on by the elementary students to the police escorts from the city line home after their out-of-town wins, Jagoda could not have been more appreciative of the support shown by the community as his team made its run to Binghamton.
"The community has been outstanding," Jagoda said of the support his team received throughout the season and playoffs. "I can't say enough about the people, especially Denise and Steve Zentz who went out of their way to spearhead getting a local community bus for these kids. The crowd was fantastic and the support I've got from former players. I just got flooded with text messages and e-mails from former players of mine ... I really appreciate it. It really makes me feel good that they still care about the program and that I know they have a lot of passion for it. Collectively, as a community, I thought we made Dunkirk proud."
NOTES: Bomasuto finished his final game 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored while Ahlstrom added a single in his final game in maroon and white ... The other Dunkirk hits were collected by Ruiz and Cieslewicz, who connected for a single in the sixth inning.