The Oriskany baseball team had one goal in mind the entire season, and the Redskins weren’t going to let anybody get in their way.
After downing No. 3 seed Sackets Harbor and No. 2 seed New York Mills in the Section III Class D playoffs, the Redskins made it a clean sweep by ousting defending champion and top-seeded Brookfield, 8-2, on Saturday at DeLutis Field to capture the crown.
Junior Austin Smith threw 12 strikeouts en route to a complete game, while teammates Nate Keating and Dan Buehler delivered big hits in the clutch to get an early five-run lead as Oriskany advanced past the Beavers.
"I wanted to do it for myself and all these guys that supported us," said Smith, after getting the big third out with runners on second and first bases to deliver Oriskany its first sectional title since going back-to-back in 2006-07. "I was thinking that if I throw strikes I pretty much do good. I gotten into a couple jams by walking people, but I just stayed ahead and threw strikes. My fastball was popping, and my curveball was moving all around keeping them off-balanced the whole game."
It took a week for 17-5 overall Oriskany to claim its third sectional crown in six seasons after rain forced the final to be postponed on Tuesday and Friday while moving the site from Alliance Bank Stadium to DeLutis Field due to poor field conditions.
The Redskins will next play in a state regional game against Section IV champion Hancock (20-3) at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Broome Community College in Binghamton. The winner advances to Saturday’s state final four at Broome CC.
Smith, who came up with the victory in Oriskany’s win over No. 2 seed Sackets Harbor in the sectional quarterfinals, allowed seven hits while throwing 108 pitches for his second sectional playoff win. He also moved his season record on the mound to 6-3.
Oriskany coach Tom Meiss, whose wife, Angela, coached Oriskany’s girls basketball team to a sectional title earlier in the school year, went as far as saying it was the best Smith has thrown all year.
"He definitely picked the best time to throw his best game of the year," he said. "He’s been getting better and better and more confident every start. His control was great, and he did a great job for us."
Meiss also noted that what helped the most was getting that early lead to put their opposition at a disadvantage just liked they have to every team they’ve faced throughout this tournament.
Buehler connected with a two-run single to score Sam Martel and Noah Lupini to put Oriskany ahead 2-0 in the first, and Keating topped him in the next inning by delivering a two RBI hit of his own to second base to break the game open at 5-0.
"I went up there thinking this could be the last shot we’ve got," Keating said referring to possibly putting the game out of reach for Brookfield. "I wanted to get us going and that was what I was thinking the whole time. I was waiting for my pitch, didn’t do anything special, just poked it over to second base and started us up."
Keating finished with two hits, three RBIs, a stolen base and a run scored, while Buehler went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, two stolen bases and a double in the sixth inning. Martel added two doubles and scored three times as well, and Lupini had a hit and two RBIs.
Meiss certainly was happy for the ending result, especially after having the sixth-seeded Redskins go through the tournament’s top three seeds in order to get the covenant sectional title.
"I just feel great for all these kids because they’ve worked hard all year to get us to this point," he said. "It was a really tough draw, but you expect that in sectionals. But to say you went through the No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 seeds to win it, it makes it that much more exciting."
Brookfield starter Cody Beeching was roughed up in the losing effort on the mound, giving up seven runs on six hits and seven walks through 3 2-3 innings.
Austin Head and Zach Noble each recorded two hits for the home team, while Wade King capitalized on Smith’s only mishap in the bottom of the second by connecting for a two-run single with two out and cutting Oriskany’s lead to 5-2. The Central Counties League champion Beavers concluded their season with a 17-2 record.
As far as Oriskany’s upcoming battle with Hancock on Tuesday, Keating believes the Redskins have a shot at advancing to the final four.
"We don’t know much about them, but we’re going to play Oriskany baseball like we have been," he said.
"I think we’ve been really hot this whole playoffs. If we keep playing the way we do, I think we have a shot. We hear they’re a good team, but we’re not going to let that get to us."