Dream comes to an end

BINGHAMTON – Before the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D baseball Final Four, the Westfield coach said if his team was going down, they were not going down without a fight.

And though the Wolverines lost to returning state champion, Smithtown Christian, 8-4, in the championship, the school from Section 6 battled until the very end.

Smithtown Christian is located on Staten Island and entered Saturday with a 12-10 record. That record is deceiving as it is the only Class D school on the island, meaning it plays Class B and Class C schools all year, and there are no other teams to have a Sectional tournament against.

The Knights’ power was on display early and often. Their top four hitters finished 10 for 16 with seven runs scored and combined for four RBIs.

“They were tough,” Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach said. “Our pitching just didn’t do it. (Starting pitcher Greg) Schroeder had a hard time with those guys. I don’t want to put this on one guy. I have seen Schroeder battle back before. He is our No. 2 and I have seen him get out of jams like this before. Maybe I miscalculated this, too. I have always said it would be better to play one after the other, but it’s hard with them emotionally when it’s hot and hard physically.”

The Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning and held a 6-0 lead after two innings. No. 4 hitter Jon Farrell had a two-run double in the first inning and an RBI base hit in the second inning.

Westfield Senior Liam Tennies pitched the final five innings and gave up two runs on five hits.

“I thought Liam came in and did awesome,” Kaltenbach said. “He was our No. 4 pitcher throughout the year and he did fine. I am proud of these guys.”

Westfield got on the board in the fourth inning as Nolan Hunt reached on a single, and eventually stole home to cut the lead, 8-1.

The Wolverines looked to be getting momentum as they loaded the bases in the fifth inning, but Smithtown Christian pitcher Austin Sala shut the door, as he did most of the day, as he gave up just four hits in five innings of work as he hit his spots and had an effective curveball all afternoon.

Hunt, playing in his final high school game before taking his talents to Canisius next season finished his career in nearly-fitting fashion as he belted a two-run homer in the seventh inning to cut the deficit, 8-4.

“Other than a loss, it’s a story-book ending for Hunt,” Kaltenbach said of the home run. “He is probably the best player we have ever had. It’s a fitting way to end an unbelievable career.”

Unfortunately, that was as close the Wolverines got as Knights’ pitcher Vinny Ciaravino picked up the final two outs to help his team capture the state title.

Of course it took a 3-0 win over Oriskany in the semifinals to advance to the title game.

In that game, Hunt threw a one-hitter – a two-out double to Kyle Liddy in the third inning was the only hit – and struck out 11. He issued one walk and hit two batters.

But his biggest contribution came in the third inning. With Jonathan Wilson on first base and Chris Catalano on second base with two outs, Oriskany decided to make a pitching change to bring in left-hander Nick Springer to the lefty-hitting Hunt. The plan backfired as Hunt cracked a two-run double to deep center field to score both base runners and give Westfield a 2-0 lead.

“We were looking to go lefty-lefty against their best player,” Oriskany coach Tom Meiss said. “It’s easy to say it backfired now. We were playing percentages. Nick has been our best pitcher all year long. We were trying to set up a pick-off move we use when it’s first and second with two outs and it’s easier to do with a lefty on the mound, and Hunt is a great player. We took a risk and it didn’t go our way. That’s baseball.”

“We were playing a little nervous,” Kaltenbach added. “He drilled that thing and that was a big eye-opener for us, letting us know we can hit Springer. One guy has that big hit, and the rest follow. That was big for us.”

Oriskany had its chances to seize momentum as the defense turned a double play in the second inning and got a big out at home plate in the fourth inning to keep the score 2-0.

“We knew being the visitor, hoping we would strike first, we wanted that chance in the first inning. We got two times where momentum was on our side. Credit to their team and Hunt and how good he is.”

The Wolverines added an insurance run in the fifth inning as Tanner Dahl singled and moved to third on a fielder’s choice and an error. He eventually crossed home on a passed ball for the 3-0 win.

“We have a great team and we just ran out of gas the last game,” Kaltenbach concluded. “I’m not taking anything away from them. Every time they touched the ball, it went somewhere where we weren’t.

“I need a day or two and we need to take some time to digest what we have done and sit back and enjoy it,” Kaltenbach added. “We haven’t had time to breath. This is the proudest I have ever been of a group of guys. When we sit back and look at this, we finished second in the state and that’s something to be damn proud of.”

It was the final high school game for Hunt, Tennies and Tanner Dahl.

“They have been with me now for over three years,” Kaltenbach said. “Other than the two losses in Sectionals and here, we haven’t lost. I’m going to miss them. I love them. They are great.”

NOTES: In the championship game, Hunt had two hits with a homer and Trevor North had two singles.

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