By Rob Centorani
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — Earlier this week, Oneonta High baseball coach Joe Hughes said he didn’t have any pitchers who would strike out 10-15 batters a game.
The Yellowjackets’ opener on a windy Friday afternoon proved Hughes knew what he was talking about, sort of.
No OHS pitchers hit double-digits in strikeouts, but sophomores Noah Sheehan and Brock Eichler, junior Kevin Smith, and seniors Mason Montgomery and Chris Pindar combined for 13 in the Yellowjackets’ 5-0 non-league victory over Cobleskill.
“The young guys definitely stepped up,” said third-year varsity player Pindar, who reached base four times and scored twice. “They showed they can play at the bigger level today.”
It marked the 17th straight victory for OHS, which capped its 24-2 state-championship run a season ago with 16 wins in a row.
Pindar is the lone returning starter on a 16-man roster that includes six sophomores.
“It was very encouraging,” Hughes said of the efforts of Sheehan and Eichler on the mound, and some quality defensive work by fellow sophomore Josh Garufi at shortstop. “It’s their first varsity experience and only our third time on the field. They were a little anxious and a little nervous, but they were solid.”
Oneonta’s five pitchers combined on a two-hitter. Perhaps more impressive was that on a blustery day, the Yellowjackets allowed three walks.
Sheehan worked around a one-out single by Josh Tusang in a scoreless first inning that included two strikeouts.
Lefty Eichler then struck out the side in the second, all looking. Brad Koeberle and Zach Veley looked at third-strike curveballs, and David Himme watched a fastball go by for strike three. Eichler struck out two more in the third and wound up with his first varsity victory.
Smith didn’t allow a hit and struck out three over the next two innings.
Montgomery, another lefty, worked a 1-2-3 sixth, and left-hander Pindar struck out three and walked two to close it.
Pindar sounded impressed by his younger teammates on the mound.
“Throwing strikes with young guys is definitely important because you’re not going to blow the ball by hitters,” he said. “You have to have good location.”
Cobleskill starter Veley struck out four over the first two innings, but walks hurt him during Oneonta’s three-run third.
Veley walked No. 9 hitter Mike Wolstenholme to begin the third. After Pindar dropped a single into left, Jonathan Vega walked to load the bases.
Zach King then hit a hard liner to left. Nick Bird made a diving catch, but Wolstenholme tagged from third to score the first run. Sheehan followed with an RBI groundout to short, and Garufi scored the third run on an infield single. Garufi hit a hard comebacker that deflected off of Veley.
In the fourth inning, Pindar walked with two outs and scored on Vega’s lined double into the left-center field gap.
Oneonta capped the scoring in the sixth, when Collin Neer walked, stole second, went to third on a groundout by Matt Bitzer and — after Pindar was hit by a pitch — scored on a double-steal.
Seniors Pindar, Vega and King combined to go 3-for-6 with three runs, two RBIs, five steals, four walks and one hit batsman.
“Those three and Mason, they have to have good years for us and they certainly did today,” Hughes said. “Pindar is our spark plug in a lot of ways. He hits the ball and he can run. He was stealing bases. Vega had good at-bats and King hit the ball hard.”
Defensively, Garufi handled all four of his chances cleanly, including a back-handed stop in the hole in the seventh that resulted in a force-out at second.
“The expectations are to have a winning season,” Pindar said. “Last year, obviously, is going to be hard to beat, but you have to try.”
OHS will host Johnson City on Monday.
Oneonta 5, Cobleskill 0
Cobleskill 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Oneonta 003 101 x — 5 4 1
Zach Veley (L), Matt Kelley (6) and Seth Billington. Noah Sheehan, Brock Eichler (2,W), Kevin Smith (4), Mason Montgomery (6), Chris Pindar (7) and Zach King, Matt Bitzer (7). 2B: Jonathan Vega (O).
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.