BINGHAMTON — It seemed like it was the Oriskany baseball team’s destiny to claim the state Class D championship.
The Redskins mowed down every top squad that came their way up until Saturday’s state final four, and strong pitching performances from Nate Keating and Austin Smith put them in position to win it all for the first time in school history.
However, it turned out that it was Section IX champion Coleman Catholic High School’s year to be the top team.
Keating came back from over a two-week resting period to pitch a two-hit, 1-0, shutout over Section VI title holder Pine Valley in the semifinals to give Oriskany a shot at the championship, and Smith gave up just five hits later that afternoon in the title game at Broome Community College.
But with those stellar outings by the duo, Coleman Catholic’s Mike Smithmeyer was just little bit better on this day. The senior right-hander no-hit the Redskins through 5 2-3 innings and just gave up one hit while overpowering the Section III champions for a 2-0 shutout victory in the final.
"It would’ve been great to get a no-hitter in a state final four game, but that doesn’t happen too often," said Smithmeyer.
"This was definitely something we were looking to. We wanted to start with a sectional title, but a state title, we never would’ve thought."
Smithmeyer rolled Coleman Catholic, a private school in Hurley, through all four of its playoff games by picking up winning decisions in each one, including one in relief on Saturday morning when he threw the final two innings of a 2-1 semifinal victory over 2010 state champion Fort Ann.
"We ran into a overpowering arm. You get here with good pitching, good defense and timely hitting," said Oriskany coach Tom Meiss. "All it was was a fastball, but it had a little tail on it. It was also a lot harder than anything we’ve seen — about high 80s, low 90s. We just couldn’t catch up to it at times."
Coleman Catholic broke the scoreless tie in the pitcher’s duel in the third inning. Smith gave up back-to-back singles to open the frame and then overshot his throw on a pickoff attempt to third base to allow Coleman’s Connor Bannen to come home. He then gave up a two-out RBI single to Chad Callahan for the second and final run.
"They just stuck the bat out there and found some holes," said Smith, who finished with a 7-4 record on the season and recorded the lone hit off Smithmeyer. "I don’t think I got hit too hard. They just had some timely hits, and we weren’t able to make up those two runs."
Oriskany’s best chance at scoring off Smithmeyer came when Keating got hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth. He stole second then reached third on a wild pitch, but the Coleman Catholic ace ended the threat on back-to-back strikeouts on Alex Liddy and Anthony Pickard.
The Redskins finished their season with a 19-6 record and got to the title round from Keating’s winning start on the mound earlier. The senior matched Pine Valley’s starter Zack Fancher throughout, allowing only two walks and striking out six. He gave up both of his two hits to Lucas Trumbley and was only Keating’s real threat to score when he stole second with one out, but Keating responded with a fly out to centerfield and a groundball to the mound to end the threat.
Noah Lupini scored the only run the Redskins needed on a wild pitch. He lined a lead-off double to right field in the bottom of the fourth, then advanced to third base on a grounder by Keating to the second baseman Spencer Sticek and raced to home plate when Fancher threw a pitch to the dirt past the catcher Joey Gierszewski.
"(Nate) hadn’t thrown in two and a half weeks and he pitched a complete game two-hitter. It says a lot about his senior leadership, his character and his ability as a pitcher," said Meiss. "It was definitely a tough-luck loss for Austin, too. He’s just been in a zone and pitching great. They just got a couple hits off the bat and got them when they needed to."
Dan Buehler also connected with two doubles in the match, stole a base and a gave Oriskany a chance to score by reaching third base on three occasions. Sam Martel also singled and stole two bases, and Liddy stole a bag, as well.
Oriskany will graduate four starters, including Keating, Lupini, Patrick Manna and Steve Rossi, as the program sets its sights for next year.
The season ends as Oriskany’s second runner-up performance in the state tournament and its third final four appearance. The Redskins lost in the state semifinals during the 2007 season — during Meiss’ second Section III Class D title winning season — and in 1993, the Redskins fell in the state championship game.
"Obviously, it wasn’t the ending we hoped and envisioned," said Meiss.
"But to say you are playing baseball on the last day of the year and to say you are one of the top two teams in the state says a lot about your baseball program and the kids you have on the team."