We’re just 24 hours away from a wild Saturday in which three Section 1 teams will compete for state championships. I’ll be hitting the road for Binghamton at some point this afternoon and then I’ll be bouncing around all day tomorrow. Rye Neck has the earliest start of the day at 10 a.m., and then I’ll shoot over to see Rye at 1 p.m. Our buddy Phil Strum will be with Ketcham. Depending on what happens in the semis, I’ll be with whichever local team(s) make the finals at 4. Follow me on Twitter @vzmercogliano and Phil @PJStrum.
Can’t make the troop up to Binghamton? Here’s the info to follow pitch-by-pitch action live on iScore:
Viewer URL: http://iscorecast.com
Customer ID: 616EF97D61
Here are previews for each of the semifinals involving local teams. (And if you have any good restaurant suggestions in Binghamton, feel free to drop a suggestion in the comments.):
Class AA state semifinal
Ketcham (23-3) vs. Section 2’s Shenendehowa (20-2)
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Maine-Endwell High School
Key players: Ketcham – Dan Alonzo, Sr., C; Jordan Bishop, Sr., SS; Mark Joao, Sr., 2B; Jacob Morgenstern, Jr., DH; Tim Zehnbauer, Jr., P/3B. Shenendehowa – Matt Drum, Sr., INF; Aaron Kalish, Sr., P/1B; John Novenche, Sr., INF; Bryan Warzek, Jr., P; Justin Yurchak, Sr., INF.
Outlook: According to those who make the rankings, this could be considered the state championship game. Shenendehowa is currently ranked No. 1 in Class AA in New York, with Ketcham right behind at No. 2. Whichever team comes out of this one will likely be viewed as the favorite in the title game. The Indians will almost surely throw junior ace Tim Zehnbauer, who been their clear-cut No. 1 all season. The choice isn’t as obvious for the Plainsmen, who have used senior Aaron Kalish and junior Bryan Warzek pretty equally this year. But Warzek started Shen’s 3-1 regional final win over Auburn and is said to have better pure stuff, with 54 strikeouts in 45 innings. I’m guessing that he’s the guy that Ketcham will see. With a likely pitchers’ duel on tap, the Indians will hope to continue to receive production from up-and-down its lineup, which it has been the case throughout the playoffs. Leadoff hitter Jacob Morgenstern has been red-hot, as has No. 9 hitter Dan Alonzo, and many others in between. The big bat for the Plainsmen has been Justin Yurchak, who leads the team with a .527 batting average, 23 runs scored, 19 RBI, nine doubles and three homers. No one else is hitting within 100 points of him, so he’ll likely be a guy that Ketcham looks to work around. The Indians have been playing a very clean brand of baseball and rarely make mistakes, but many will tell you the same about the Plainsmen. Something has to give.
Up next: The winner will play in the championship game at Maine-Endwell at 4 p.m. against the West Islip-Victor winner.
Class A state semifinal
Rye (22-4) vs. Section 2’s Averill Park (14-11)
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Union Endicott High School
Key players: Rye – Tim DeGraw, Jr., OF; George Kirby, Soph., P; Luke Meyerson, Sr., P/1B; Brendan Tripodi, Sr., 3B; Griffin Tutun, Sr., SS. Averill Park – Chris Amadon, Sr., 3B; Tyler Childrose, Sr., P/1B; Ben Reinisch, Sr., SS; Max Tessitore, Sr., OF/P; Alex Tomlinson, Sr., P/OF.
Outlook: Rye is in position to compete for the first state title in program history thanks in large part to co-aces Luke Meyerson and George Kirby, who each have three wins through six playoff games. They’ve essentially traded complete games for the past few weeks and give the Garnets two very reliable starters for what could be a championship doubleheader on Saturday. Meyerson is a senior lefty who relies heavily on off-speed pitches and is 8-2 with a 1.32 ERA, while Kirby is a sophomore righty with a power fastball and has been perfect at 10-0 with a 0.80 ERA, so they complement each other well. The Rye bats have also broken out in the past two games with a combined 18 runs. Tim DeGraw is the table-setter with a .542 batting average and 32 steals, while Griffin Tutun and Brendan Tripodi anchor the middle of the order with at least 25 RBI apiece. The Garnets enter the state semis as the favorite against an Averill Park team that just won its first ever section title after finishing the regular season under .500. The Warriors received the eighth and final seed in Section 2, but rallied to win unexpected sectional and regional championships. Their horse has been Siena-bound ace Tyler Childrose, who tossed a three-hitter in the section final and should get the ball against Rye. Averill Park relied on pitching during most of its run, but did breakout with 16 runs in its regional final win over Massena. Childrose should be tough for the Garnets to figure out, but if they can muster a few runs, their pitching staff is capable of squeaking out a low-scoring win.
Up next: The winner will immediately play the Bayport Blue Point-Sutherland winner in the championship game at Union Endicott at 4 p.m. Bayport is the defending state champ.
Class B state semifinal
Rye Neck (24-1-1) vs. Section 5’s Livonia (24-1)
When: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Where: Binghamton University
Key players: Rye Neck – Ryan Aquino, Sr., P/OF; Chris Cascione, Sr., SS; Matt Franks, Sr., 1B/P; Thomas Pipolo, Sr., C; Angelo Spedafino, Sr., P/OF. Livonia – Mike English, Sr., 2B; Matt Feldman, Sr., P/OF; Josh Henderson, Jr., SS; Zack Kolodziejski, Sr., P/OF; Maddux Minton, Soph., P/OF.
Outlook: Each team comes into the weekend with 24 wins and only one loss, setting up a powerhouse matchup between two squads that have been dreaming of a state championship all year. While Livonia features a talented roster mixed with senior leadership and promising underclassmen, Rye Neck relies almost exclusively on seniors. All nine of the Panthers’ starters are seniors, as are all five pitchers that they use. Ryan Aquino and Angelo Spedafino have received all but one playoff start so far and are ready to start both games on Saturday, if necessary, but Chris Pennell, Matt Franks and Matt Garcia give Rye Neck experienced pitching depth that no other team in the tournament can match. Through six playoff games, the Panthers have allowed a remarkable total of just two runs. Seniors Zack Kolodziejski and Matt Feldman have made the majority of the starts for the Bulldogs, with each sporting an ERA of 1.63 or better while averaging well over a strikeout per inning. While each team has benefitted from stellar pitching, Livonia’s offense has looked more potent of late, averaging 11.4 runs per game with five hitters who are batting .400 or better. Rye Neck has only averaged three runs per games in the postseason, which likely won’t cut it against a team of Livonia’s caliber, but the offense has shown at times that it is capable of putting up a crooked number. But the Panthers have several players who helped guided the football team to the state championship game, so this is a group that has experienced the big stage.
Up next: The winner will play in the championship game against the Clinton-Schalmont winner at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Binghamton University.
Photo by John Meore/The Journal News