By Greg Klein
ONEONTA — Linton Wainright got it done with his arm for Edmeston on Friday.
His feet were pretty good, too.
Sophomore right-hander Wainright struck out 10 and walked two in a four-hitter for the Panthers, who beat Milford, 8-1, in the Tri-Valley League baseball championship game at Oneonta State.
Wainright also went 3-for-4 with two runs, an RBI and six of the Panthers’ 12 stolen bases.
“That’s what I like to do,” Wainright said. “Start us off, lead off with a hit, steal a couple of bases, score a run, and make sure I set the tone.”
And that’s exactly what he did in the top of the first inning.
Wainright led off with an infield single on a slow roller to third base, beating a throw from Stephen Banks. He then stole second and third, setting up a sacrifice fly to center field by Clayton Hawes.
The Panthers scored twice in the second inning on suicide-squeeze plays.
Nate Truax singled, stole second, took third on a dropped third strike and scored on Josh Nicolosi’s bunt, which stopped a few feet into the grass on the third-base side. By the time Milford pitcher Peyton Griffiths fielded the ball, Truax was already home. To make matters worse for Milford, Nicolosi made it to third on the play as Griffiths’ high throw to first ended up in the foul territory of the outfield.
The next batter, Lucas Miller, then squeezed in Nicolosi for a 3-0 lead.
“We practiced that play all week,” Edmeston coach Mike Clark said. “At this point in the year, it is little things like that that can make a big difference in the game. They did it perfect.”
In the third inning, Clark’s son Michael walked, advanced to third on a single to right field by Hawes and scored on a fielder’s choice by Truax to make it 4-0.
Milford got its run in the top of the fourth. Paul VanWarner led off with a single to center, stole second, advanced to third on Wyatt Waters’ flyout to center and scored on Jacob Tabor’s single.
Milford coach Andrew Griffiths pulled son Peyton from the mound for the fifth inning, but the Panthers continued to manufacture runs against reliever Will Ward.
“(Peyton’s) a passionate kid, and you could tell he was getting frustrated,” Griffiths said. “His pitch count was getting up there, and I just thought it was time to give them a different look.”
Ward hit two of the first three batters he faced — Garrett Gott and Hawes. Both players scored on sacrifice flies, by Clayton Lyon and Truax, respectively.
Ward hit Miller with a pitch in the sixth, which also led to a run. Miller stole second and scored on Wainright’s single to center. Wainright then stole two more bases, setting up Gott for an RBI groundout to cap the scoring.
Wainright faced 26 batters in seven innings as Milford failed to send more than four batters to the plate in each. He rarely fell behind hitters, but the few times he did, the Wildcats couldn’t capitalize. That included a pair of strikeouts that started with 3-0 counts.
“He’s a very good player, probably the fastest we have seen all year,” Griffiths said. “As far as pitching, he is a good pitcher who was able to work the off speed to go along with a good fastball.
“We were not able to get any momentum,” he continued. “They were able to make plays from offense to defense. That’s a credit to Mike’s coaching. They did a great job of executing Mike’s game plan.”
Clark agreed that his team executed well.
“They did everything you could ask for as a coach. Linton was pitching well, getting ahead of guys. Our defense was strong behind him,” said Clark, whose program won the crossover for the first time since 2008 and the sixth time overall. “We got quality at-bats and ran up their pitch count. It was just a great game all over.”
West Division champion Edmeston also ended a two-year skid in the crossover. The Panthers fell, 11-3, last season to Cherry Valley-Springfield, which won the 2011 crown, 8-0.
“It was tough for us to lose those games,” Wainright said, “but now that we have won the title by beating Milford, it feels good.”
Edmeston (14-5) is seeded sixth for the Section Four Class D Tournament and will host No. 11 Morris at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the opening round. At the same time, third-seeded Milford (11-3) will host No. 13 Windham.
Edmeston 8, Milford 1
at Oneonta State
Milford 000 100 0 - 1 4 1
Edmeston 121 022 x - 8 5 1
Peyton Griffiths (L), Will Ward (5) and Blake Elliott. Linton Wainright (W) and Clayton Hawes.