Margaretville Legion team advances to tourney finals
By Brian Sweeney
Margaretville rode a brilliant pitching performance by Patrick O’Connell to earn an extra-inning 5-0 win over host Bainbridge on Monday and advance to the Delaware County Junior Legion Baseball Championship.
O’Connell hurled a complete game and allowed just four hits and one walk, while picking up nine strikeouts. His sterling effort on the mound kept Margaretville in the scoreless contest until the visitors erupted for five runs in the eighth inning.
The Margaretville club had advanced to the playoff semifinals when Delhi could not field a team in the opening round. Margaretville, which represents Middletown American Legion Post 216, now faces Hancock in the finals on Thursday, July 22 at 6 p.m. at Walton.
Coach Rick Funck said that O’Connell, who has only thrown one inning this Legion season, did an outstanding job of mixing his pitches and had a very effective knuckleball. The coach pointed out that catcher Jon Fairbairn had a solid game behind the plate, particularly in controlling O’Connell’s knuckleball.
He also credited Jake Brophy, Cody Fronckowiak and Matt VanValkenburg with strong defensive efforts that helped keep Bainbridge off the scoreboard.
O’Connell worked out of several jams and took complete control from innings 5-8, facing only 14 batters during that span.
Coach Funck said his team had several scoring chances early in the contest but could not push any runs across the plate. He was concerned that losing those opportunities might prove costly.
Fortunately, O’Connell was able to keep Bainbridge in check until the Margaretville offense clicked in the top of the eighth.
Fronckowiak and Short each singled to star the rally and O’Connell followed with a sinking liner that was dropped by the right fielder for an error. One run scored on the play. After a steal by O’Connell put runners at second and third, Jon Fairbairn drove in a run with a fielder’s choice. Ian Williams then walked and stole second and O’Connell scored on a grounder to the left side by Mitch Hull.
Margaretville again had runners on second and third after Hull stole a base. Brophy followed with a grounder to third and two more runs scored after a wild throw to first base.
O’Connell then quickly retired Bainbridge in the home half of the inning. He finished having thrown 111 pitches. Coach Funck said that O’Connell could be used for one inning in the finals, but most of the pitching would be done by others. Margaretville finished the contest with 10 hits.
In two earlier contests, Bainbridge had beaten Margaretville by a combined score of 36-2. Coach Funck explained that he didn’t have his entire roster available during those games.