By Rob Centorani
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — For one brutally long half-inning that required 41 pitches, Oneonta High baseball followers were reminded that this year’s young squad is a work in progress.
In a matchup of Southern Tier Athletic Conference East Division rivals that have won the last two Class B state championships, Chenango Valley sent 12 batters to the plate in a seven-run sixth inning that carried the Warriors to a 12-5 win Wednesday.
The inning included two errors, two wild pitches, two walks and two doubles.
“We want people to hit and earn their runs off of us and if they hit line drives and base hits, that’s part of the game,” said OHS coach Joe Hughes, whose team went into the sixth inning in a 5-all tie. “There were some plays we could have made and some balls we could have caught. We didn’t and that added to their big sixth inning. It proved to be the turning point of the game.”
Added CV coach Mike Allen: “You never want to applaud a bad play, but we were able to capitalize on some of their mistakes and that led to a big inning for us. We’ve been waiting for that crooked number all season. We put some good at-bats together and didn’t help the pitcher when he was in trouble.”
CV (5-3, 5-3) received seven hits, six runs and three RBIs from the top two hitters in its lineup — Chris Ruffo and Matt Personius. Both of them played last season, when the Yellowjackets rallied from six runs down to beat CV, 11-10, in the Section Four Class B final — a walkoff win that included four runs in the bottom of the seventh.
“This was definitely a game we were excited to play,” said Personius, who went 3-for-5 with a double, three runs and three RBIs.
Unfortunately for OHS (5-3, 3-3), it had none of its starters in Wednesday’s lineup from that memorable comeback at Conlon Field last June, which propelled the Yellowjackets to the Class B state championship.
Even standout senior center fielder Chris Pindar — Oneonta’s lone returning starter from last season — was out. He injured his back during the Yellowjackets’ 6-0 loss at Chenango Forks on Friday and hasn’t played since.
Dom Forbidussi led off the Warriors’ sixth a double to left-center off of OHS sophomore starter Brock Eichler. Then Matt Igo, who homered to left in the second inning, hit a bouncer to third. Conor Tavarone came up early on the play. The ball skimmed off his glove and into left for an error that allowed Forbidussi to reach third as Igo eased into second.
Eric Silvanic followed with a two-run single down the left-field line to make it 7-5. Silvanic took second on a passed ball.
Trevor Henige followed with a sacrifice bunt and reached when Eichler air-mailed the throw to first. Silvanic scored on the play and Henige went to second.
After Ruffo’s single to right moved Henige to third, Personius doubled over right fielder Noah Sheehan to score Henige and chase Personius to third.
That ended Eichler’s outing.
“When Brock is hitting his spots, he can be effective,” Hughes said of the left-hander. “When he throws his curveball for strikes, he can be effective, but he’s not quite at the stage where he can just rare back and throw it by people. He has to be accurate, hit his spots and have control of both pitches, and a couple of times he had pitch locations he would have liked to be somewhere else.”
Fellow sophomore Collin Neer entered and allowed Ruffo and Personius to score on wild pitches. The final run of the inning scored on Robert Hess’ RBI single.
Ruffo tripled in the first and third innings, deep drives to left- and right-center, respectively. Personius drove him with a groundout in the first inning and on a single in the third. After Personius’ single in the third, he went to second on a wild pitch, to third on a balk and scored on Colby Ross’ groundout. That gave CV a 4-1 lead.
The Yellowjackets scored in the second when Mason Montomery walked, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Matt Bitzer’s opposite-field single to right.
Oneonta pulled to 4-2 in the third inning. With two outs, Sheehan walked, advanced to second on a single down the left-field line by Montgomery and scored when shortstop Ross booted Bitzer’s grounder.
But over the first three innings, OHS stranded six runners. For the game, the Yellowjackets left 12 runners on base.
“When they got guys on, they drove them in and when we got guys on, we left them out there,” Hughes said. “We had some soft at-bats. We scored five, but I think we could have had some more. That’s exactly what we talked (after the game) — giving up too much on defense and having some soft at-bats. We need to do a better job.”
In the fourth inning, OHS scored three times to take a 5-4 lead.
Tavarone walked off of CV starter Gavin Ashman. Garufi followed with a single to center and both runners moved up on a fielding error by center fielder Ruffo. Jon Vega’s sacrifice fly to left scored Tavarone.
Zach King followed with an RBI single to center to tie the score at 4. He took second on an errant throw and scored on Montgomery’s double to right-center that made it 5-4.
Montgomery finished two of Oneonta’s nine hits.
“They work hard, they listen, they’re trying their best and they like baseball, but it’s a difficult game to play,” said Hughes, who started five sophomores Wednesday. “As they get bigger and stronger, they’re going to have more and more success.”
Chenango Valley 12, Oneonta 5
Chenango Valley 112 017 0 – 12 15 2
Oneonta 011 300 0 – 5 9 2
Gavin Ashman, Eric Silvanic (5,W) and Matt Personius. Brock Eichler (L), Collin Neer (6), Conor Tavarone (7) and Matt Bitzer, Peter Brunetta (7). 2B: Dom Forbidussi (CV), Matt Personius (CV), Mason Montgomery (O). 3B: Chris Ruffo (CV) 2. HR: Matt Igo (CV).
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.