MCS boys take Upper Delaware; fall to South Kortright in Crossover
By Julia Green
Margaretville 8, Hunter-Tannersville 3
It was the same scenario as last year, but with a very different outcome.
Margaretville’s Wednesday game at Hunter-Tannersville was a must-win for the Blue Devils, and win they did, clinching their first Upper Delaware title since 1995.
“We came so close last year,” said Blue Devils’ Head Coach Rick Funck. “It came down to the last two games of the season. We had a chance to beat Hunter to be champs and we didn’t, and then we had a make-up game the next night against Roxbury and we would have been co-champs but we didn’t win that either, so it was a very difficult end of the season last year. This year, the whole scenario played out again, and it happened to be Hunter, and I told the guys, ‘Last year they won – this year, let’s turn the tables.’ And we were fortunate enough to do that.”
The Blue Devils were led by starting pitcher Patrick O’Connell, who tallied nine strikeouts in the outing and no walks to improve his season record to 5-0.
Each team scored a run in the first inning to make it 1-1, and each team was held scoreless through the top of the fourth inning; in the bottom of the fourth, however, the Blue Devils broke away.
Jon Fairbairn led off the bottom of the inning with a single and was followed by Brian Faulkner with a double. Fairbairn was thrown out trying to steal third, but an RBI single to right field by Nate Tuch drove Faulkner home. Grant Cure walked and a single to right-center field by Cody Fronckowiak knocked in two more runs.
“That was the big hit of that particular inning,” Funck said of the drive by Fronckowiak, who was 2-for-3 for the day with three RBIs.
The Blue Devils kept the heat on in the fifth inning. At the top of the inning it was three up, three down as O’Connell faced the bottom of the Hunter batting order, and the Blue Devil defense turned a nice 1-4-3 double play.
“They had a guy on first base and they hit it right to Patrick,” Funck said, “and he turned and flipped it to Chris Costa and he threw it to first. It was one of the nicest plays we’ve had this year.”
That strong defense was matched by the Blue Devils’ still-hot offense in the bottom of the inning, when Margaretville returned to the batter’s box.
Guy Nobile hit a fly ball to center field that was dropped by the Hunter outfield, which was followed by a walk for Margaretville. Faulkner popped a sac fly to score a run, which was followed by another walk and a single by Cure. Another single by Fronckowiak pushed the Margaretville lead to 7-1.
Hunter showed signs of life in the top of the sixth, when two infield errors allowed two runners to reach base. O’Connell struck out two, but a single to left field by Hunter’s Ryan Megnin scored two to make it 7-3.
It wasn’t quite enough for Hunter, however; the Blue Devils tallied an unearned run in the top of the sixth and held Hunter scoreless in the seventh.
“The guys were pretty excited,” Funck said. “I think it was a cross of excitement and relief. This is a pretty young team – we’ve got more sophomores than any other grade level – and so I think some of them that were there last year saw that we had high hopes going into the last games and came out 0-2. So they were excited, but I think there was also a sigh of relief that we did get it done this year.”
South Kortright 16, Margaretville 2
The Margaretville Blue Devils were feeling the loss of their starting pitcher in Thursday’s crossover final at Russ Archibald Field in Stamford. It was a long day for the Blue Devils, who dropped a tough 16-2 decision to the South Kortright Rams, who won their third league championship of the year.
The Blue Devils’ top pitcher, Patrick O’Connell, had thrown seven innings the day before to earn the Upper Delaware title for the Blue Devils in an 8-3 win over Hunter.
“Obviously, having to throw my No. 1 pitcher the day before, Patrick was unavailable,” said Margaretville Head Coach Rick Funck. “I was kind of deliberating who was going to pitch. We had played South Kortright a couple of days before and I threw seven different pitchers in seven innings. South Kortright has a solid team, and you’ve got to have a quality pitcher if you’re going to get those guys out.”
Brian Faulkner started on the mound for Margaretville and held the Rams scoreless in the opening inning. He single-handedly gave the Blue Devils a one-run lead in the top of the second with a solo shot over the left-center field wall; unfortunately, the lead was short-lived when Kortright’s Dan Many answered with a solo homer over the center field wall in the bottom of the inning.
“Brian had a good first inning, and in the second led off with a home run, so we had a 1-0 lead, but they came up at the bottom of the inning and the first guy he pitched to hit a home run to center field,” Funck said. “So it was a little tit-for-tat.”
Unfortunately, the 1-0 lead would be the last time Margaretville would have the advantage. The Blue Devils were held scoreless in the third inning but gave up five runs in the bottom of the inning to go in the hole.
“We started out the bottom of the third walking their No. 9 hitter on four straight pitches,” Funck said, “which is not a good omen.”
Ominous indeed, as an infield error allowed a second Kortright batter to reach base. A fly out to center field meant two on and one out, and another infield error gave the Rams another base-runner.
“We had a walk and two of the next three guys got on with errors,” Funck said. “Then the next guy Brian walked and Dan Many came through with a single to score two more runs, and then they had a ball hit to outfield – a tough play, a sinking line drive – they ended up scoring five runs in that inning, whereas if we’d made those two infield outs they’d have scored one run.”
The 6-1 lead for the Rams didn’t dampen the Blue Devils’ spirit, as they battled back in the fourth inning. O’Connell led off the top of the fourth with a single, followed by a Faulkner single and an RBI single by Jon Fairbairn.
“We had three hits in the fourth inning, but we only scored one run,” Funck said.
And one run wasn’t enough to stall the momentum of the Rams, who kept the heat on in the bottom of the fourth, tallying another eight runs.
Faulkner, who had thrown around 70 pitches in three innings, was replaced by Mitch Van Keuren.
“It was kind of tough; I know he didn’t really have time to get totally warmed up,” Funck said. “When he came in I know he hit a guy and walked a guy, and then we had an infield error that scored a run, too. Then they got to the top of the lineup and they started hitting the ball – a single, a double, a home run – if we’d played errorless baseball, we were going to get beat anyway.
“The reality is,” he added, “if you don’t go after Kortright with your No. 1 pitcher, you have a chance of having a long afternoon.”
The 11th-seeded Blue Devils are now looking toward sectional competition, where they will face host Deposit on Wednesdsay. It will be the first meeting of the season between the two teams.
“We don’t play them during the league,” Funck said. “They go down and play a lot of bigger schools, I think, so their records can be a little bit deceptive because they’re playing schools that are higher class. The Deposits, the Hancocks, the Aftons are generally very good baseball teams. It’s going to be a challenging game.”
A challenge, however, that will be faced by the Blue Devils’ go-to pitcher.
“The thing we’ve got going for us is that Patrick will be able to pitch and will be well-rested,” Funck said. “He’s started six games for us and he’s 5-0, so it’s our best shot to give Deposit a game with him going, and hopefully everybody else will be aggressive at the plate and will want the ball hit to them in the field.”
The Blue Devils will face sixth-seeded Deposit at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Deposit.