The Daily Star
---- — Staff Report
Hits are overrated.
No. 9 hitter Tanner Winchester rounded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning without the aid of a base hit Thursday, leading Unatego to a 5-4 victory over Sidney in the Midstate Athletic Conference 1-4 Tournament baseball championship game at Afton.
“That’s two in a row,” Spartans coach Frank Microni said of his program’s second straight MAC title, which they secured shortly after Winchester reached on a two-base throwing error to lead off the last of the seventh.
Sidney’s second error chased freshman starter Zak Green, who struck out 10, walked four and hit a batter in six innings. After Nate McDonald relieved Green, Winchester moved to third on a passed ball during Kellen Komenda’s at-bat. Komenda drew a walk and stole second, setting up an intentional walk to Jon Wingate that loaded the bases.
Winchester scored the winner during the next at-bat, beating a wide throw to the plate after Phil Youngs grounded to the third-base side.
“It was a slow grounder,” Microni said. “Tanner beat the throw home, but it was a close play at the plate.”
Komenda opened the scoring in the first inning for the regular-season champion Spartans (17-3). He singled to lead off and scored on a triple by Youngs for the early lead.
Noah McKee’s two-run single in the fifth with two out put Sidney in control, but the lead didn’t last long as Unatego starter Quinn Barnhart hit a three-run homer in the bottom frame.
“Barnhart hit it out at Afton in right-center field,” Microni said. “It was pretty far out there.”
Sidney rallied to tie it at 4 in the sixth as Billy Kozak scored on a passed ball and Damian Zimmer followed with an RBI single. The Warriors seemed to be on the verge of a big inning as Zimmer’s single also resulted in two baserunners with one out.
Then, Unatego right fielder Nick Angell got involved.
Angell rescued the Spartans from further damage, catching Pat Vibbard’s low line drive on his knees and doubling off the runner at second to keep the score tied at 4.
“It was a nice hit,” Microni said, “but he came in and made a really nice play with the sun in his eyes.”
Zimmer finished 2-for-2 with a run for Sidney, which is seeded seventh for the upcoming Section Four Class C Tournament and will host No. 10 Greene at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Komenda (two runs) and Youngs (RBI) each went 2-for-3 for the Spartans, who got a 1-2-3 seventh inning from freshman pitcher Josh Feyerabend. He struck out two in the seventh, earning the victory to improve to 6-0 this season.
Barnhart struck out five, walked three, hit a batter and scattered five hits in six innings.
Unatego has a first-round bye as the third seed for the Section Four Class C Tournament. The Spartans will host No. 11 Harpursville or No. 6 Tioga in the quarterfinal round at 4:30 p.m. next Thursday.