Rockets edge Devils in Sectionals; Wildcats stop RCS in semifinals
By John Bernhardt
Steven Hubbard is a Roxbury baseball machine. The Rockets’ senior excels at every facet of America’s pastime.
The tall, lean Hubbard is a gifted infielder who almost glides across the diamond from his shortstop position covering a large swath of real estate and gunning out runners with a cannon-like arm. Hubbard elevates Roxbury’s victory chances every time he climbs the hill as the Rockets’ pitching ace. From the right side of the batter’s box, Hubbard is a consistent contact hitter with awesome power to left field. And, once he reaches base, he navigates the base paths fearlessly with reckless abandon.
All of Hubbard’s talents were on display during Section IV tournament play last week. Hubbard lead his team to a tight 6-5 opening-round decision over Margaretville on Thursday, then came up short when the Rockets fell to Hunter-Tannersville, 4-3, in Hunter on Saturday.
There was no doubt that first-year Roxbury coach Josh Burroughs is well aware of Hubbard’s gifts. The rookie Rockets’ mentor rolled the dice in a daring attempt to help his team bring home a sectional championship. Burroughs skipped Hubbard, handing the ball to another senior, Lucas Brewer, against a tough opening-round opponent in Margaretville. Burroughs’ gambit almost hit the jackpot when Roxbury took an early 4-1 lead, but the Rockets’ mentor had to call on his ace to throw two and-one-third innings and snuff out two Blue Devils’ rallies.
Roxbury scored a single run in the top of the seventh inning to outlast the Blue Devils, 6-5. Hubbard’s relief stint on Thursday would eventually take its toll during the quarterfinal game two days later. For the first five innings, the gutsy Roxbury pitching ace was almost unhittable. After yielding a leadoff single to Robby Huetter, Hubbard didn’t allow another hit through the H-T fifth.
But, too many innings over too short a time caught up with Hubbard in the sixth. Leading 3-0, Hubbard fielded a Mike Rowling come backer and nabbed the leadoff man for the first out of the inning. Huetter got things started with a single to left. Ryan Martin followed with a sharp single to center putting runners on the corners for H-T.
Wildcats’ pitcher Greg Mudge helped his cause by lining a second single to center, plating the first Hunter run. With runners on the corners, Hubbard picked Mudge off first and got the elusive Wildcat in a rundown. The Rockets made a poor decision by failing to complete the pickle and tag Mudge for the second out, electing instead to throw home to try to catch a breaking Martin. The throw was too late as H-T added a second run with Mudge landing safely in scoring position at second.
Things melted away for Roxbury when cleanup slugger Donald Pesciotta followed with a bloop single to right field just beyond the reach of Rockets’ second baseman Adam Arvante. Arvante rifled a throw to the plate trying to nail the tying run, but Mudge slid home safely. Mudge and Roxbury catcher Andrew Camillone were tangled in a heap at the plate while Pesciotta raced for third. Camillone shucked off Mudge but his throw to third sailed past the bag into leftfield with Pesciotta scoring the winning tally.
Roxbury took the lead in the top of the fourth when Hubbard blasted a solo homerun, a monster shot to left-center field. The Rockets used a throwing error by the Wildcats’ catcher to plate Jacob Liberatore to add a second run in the inning. Another Hubbard homerun shot gave the Rockets a 3-0 lead in the fifth.
Roxbury needed heroics from Hubbard to get past Margaretville earlier in the week.
The Rockets took a two-run lead in their first at bat. Lucas Brewer was hit by a pitch, stole second, and reached third on a catcher’s error. The Blue Devils recorded the first out of the game when pitcher Patrick O’Connell tried to play a David Clark tapper in front of home plate to first. First baseman Nate Tuck came off the bag and fired the ball home catching Brewer in a rundown. The play went 1-3-2-5-1-5 before Brewer was tagged out. Hubbard then stung a hard groundball that ricocheted off the Blue Devils’ third baseman’s arm scoring Clark for the first run of the game. Andrew Camillone lined a single to center field scoring Hubbard and giving the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Margaretville used three base-on-balls and a Chris Costa RBI groundout to get one run back in the bottom of the second. But, Roxbury added two more in the third using a hit batter, a walk and an Andrew Merwin RBI single for the damage.
Three Blue Devil runs in the bottom of the inning tied things at 4-4. Four base-on-balls and outfield error and Brian Falkner’s RBI single made the difference for Margaretville. Burroughs called on Hubbard to choke off the rally, and the pitching ace needed only one pitch, fielding a come backer for the final out in the inning.
Hubbard put his team in front by blasting a tape measure homerun in the fourth that landed on the sidewalk and bounced off the Margaretville school. The Blue Devils knotted the score, this time at 5-5, when their left fielder made a running catch and tried to double up a Blue Devils’ runner at second. The relay throw was overthrown and landed out of play plating the runner with the tying run.
Margaretville made a serious attempt to win the game in the bottom of the sixth. With Hubbard now on the mound, John Fairbairn took second on an infield overthrow and, with one out, advanced to third on a passed ball. Hubbard struck out Faulkner for the first out, then fanned Nathan Tuch. Tuch hustled toward first when the third strike got away from Rockets’ catcher Camillone. Camillone’s throw gunned down Tuch and first baseman Tim Douglass fired a strike back to the plate to nail Fairbairn to complete a pivotal double play.
Camillone scored the game winner in the top of the sixth. The Roxbury senior led off by lining a single to left field off Margaretville reliever Brian Conine. Camillone stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored the winning run when Andrew Merwin smashed a ground-rule double that hopped over the fence in left field.
Hubbard struck out the side to snuff out any hopes of a Blue Devils’ rally. The Roxbury ace struck out the final five batters in the game.
Margaretville sophomore Patrick O’Connell logged an impressive pitching outing going six innings for the home team. O’Connell got stronger with each inning he pitched shutting out the Rockets over his final three frames. O’Connell fanned eight over that span striking out the side in his final inning.
Margaretville finished the season at 10-5. The Rockets ended 9-7 on the year.