FENTON _ If it turns out to be a four-game saga like last season, the talent-rich baseball squads from Oneonta High and Chenango Valley got it started the right way Monday.
Senior catcher Zach Pidgeon went 2-for-2 with a home run and two RBIs, and made a key tag at the plate in the sixth inning to lead the Yellowjackets to a 7-4 Southern Tier Athletic Conference victory on a warm and breezy day at CV.
The STAC East Division powers are coming off two-loss seasons that would have been perfect if they hadn't played each other. They engaged in a cleanly played affair fitting of teams that won a STAC title (Oneonta) and a Class B state championship (CV) last season.
"It's a lot like the Yankees and Red Sox to me," CV coach Mike Allen said of the rivalry that included a 10-2 victory by the Warriors in last season's Section Four Class B title game that ended OHS' season at 20-2. "Both teams have very good arms in the outfield, strong pitching and balanced lineups. It's like last year when we went 2-2 against each other."
Oneonta (4-0, 2-0) never trailed after scoring twice in the first inning off of losing pitcher Ryan Mack.
But the Warriors nearly tied it in the sixth inning.
Trailing, 5-2, to start the sixth, Adam Greene singled to right-center to lead off CV's sixth.
OHS reliever Mike Calkins then struck out Nick Deamer and Dominik Forbidussi, but Chris Ruffo followed with his third single of the day. It moved Greene to third and Ruffo took second on Mark Giallanzo's throw to third.
Greene scored and Ruffo went to third on Mike Fillers' infield hit to shortstop.
Ruffo then scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-4. Fillers advanced to second on the wild pitch. That set up the key play.
Trevor Henige hit an opposite-field single to right. Giallanzo charged hard, received a friendly hop and then flashed his strong arm, sending a liner to Pidgeon.
"As soon as I got it I knew I had to truck it," Giallanzo said.
The throw went high and slightly to the first-base side. Pidgeon had to reach above his head to grab it, but the throw beat Fillers by about 5 feet.
Still, Pidgeon had to kneel to apply the tag. It was a close play and Fillers was called out.
"I think I got him," said Pidgeon, who entered the game in the fifth inning. "It was close, for sure. That was a quite a throw from Mark Giallanzo. (I blocked the plate) a little bit but not totally. He had some room to cut across."
CV's side protested heavily.
"I thought (Fillers) was under the tag," said Allen, whose team is 3-1 and 1-1 in STAC. "I thought the umpire was in a bad spot. He was behind the catcher. I thought he would have had a better view from the side. To make that call from behind the catcher is tough."
Added Hughes: "It was hard to tell. It was a bang-bang play and when those go in your favor you say, 'Good call.' It was a tough call, but either way, it wasn't obvious."
Oneonta tacked on two runs in the seventh off of Eric Silvanic.
Pinch-hitter Zach King walked to lead off. Conor Youngs then dropped a perfect bunt down the first base side for a single that sent pinch-runner Jon Vega to third on the play. Vega scored on Pidgeon's lined single to center as Youngs advanced to third.
David Wright then hit a liner to shortstop Kevin Mack, who caught it and then doubled Pidgeon off of first.
Moxley followed with a flyball to right-center. Right fielder Greene and center fielder Ruffo went after it hard and neither appeared to call for it. Greene got to it first and then had a nasty collision with Ruffo. The ball dropped out of Greene's glove for an error as Youngs scored to make it 7-4.
Ruffo stayed down for about a minute and was attended to in the outfield. He came out of the game, but Allen said after the game Ruffo appears to be OK.
Calkins worked around a two-out single by Matt Personius in the seventh to earn the save.
"I have a personal rivalry against CV, so this feels good," said Pidgeon, who broke his arm in the seventh inning of last season's 6-5 win over CV in a STAC East Division tiebreaker and missed the remainder of the season. "I've been waiting for this day to come since October."
The Warriors started No. 3 pitcher Ryan Mack on Monday because top starter Austin Lewis, who signed to play at Division I Le Moyne College earlier Monday, has a strained left rotator cuff and No. 2 pitcher Fillers threw against Owego in CV's most recent win.
"We went toe-to-toe with them and they threw their No. 1 and we threw our No. 3," Allen said. "We hung right with them."
Consecutive singles by Moxley, Chris Pindar and Sean Getman produced the first run in the first inning and Ben Payton's bases-loaded the scored the second.
First baseman Lewis made it a one-run game in the fourth. Winning pitcher Moxley (2-0) got ahead 0-2 on Lewis and then threw a high fastball that Lewis took. Moxley came back with an inside curveball that Lewis pulled over the right-field fence to make it 2-1.
The Yellowjackets got a run back in the fifth, when Pindar lined a single to left with one out and went to third on a bouncing single to center by Getman.
Calkins then walked to load the bases and Payton followed with second bases-loaded walk of the day that scored Pindar to make it 3-1.
In the bottom of the fifth, Robert Heller's RBI double down the left-field line made it 3-2.
Oneonta answered in the sixth, when Pidgeon drove an inside fastball from reliever Nick Deamer down the right-field line for a home run.
This marked Pidgeon's second game back from a left knee injury suffered during the preseason.
"He's a good baseball player and I'm happy to have him back," Hughes said of Pidgeon. "He hit the home run and made a big play blocking the plate to preserve the lead. He lengthens our lineup."
Wright followed Pidgeon's homer with an opposite-field single to left, went to second on a sacrifice by Moxley and scored on Calkins' double to right-center to make it 5-2.
"It was great to get revenge and win on their home field," Giallanzo said.
The teams meet again May 9 at OHS.
Oneonta 7, Chenango Valley 4
Oneonta ..... 200 012 2 _ 7 11 0
Chenango Valley ..... 000 112 0 _ 4 11 2
Ben Moxley (W,2-0), Mike Calkins (5,S) and Zach Erbe, Zach Pidgeon (5). Ryan Mack (L), Nick Deamer (5), Eric Silvanic (7) and Matt Personius. 2B _ Mike Calkins (O), Robert Heller (C). HR _ Austin Lewis (C), Zach Pidgeon (O).
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.