Thirty years after Rye High brought home the Section One baseball crown, they did it again, defeating Lakeland High in the Class A championship game May 31.
By Mitch Silver
Thirty years after Rye High brought home the Section One baseball crown, they did it again, defeating Lakeland High in the Class A championship game May 31. The game was played under the stars at Provident Bank Park in Pomona, and the Garnets, who won only six games all last season, emerged the victors by a score of 6-5.
Every Garnet player had a hand in the ten-day-long title run, starting with Luke Myerson’s five scoreless innings in an opening-round 14-0 rout of Yonkers. Not to be outdone, the righty half of Rye’s starting mound tandem, soph George Kirby, tossed a two-hitter in the 7-1 quarterfinal win over Walter Panas. Koufax and Drysdale, anyone?
Outfielder Jay Little’s leather was a big part of the story when the Garnets faced defending Section champ John Jay-Cross River at home in the semis for the chance to go to the Big One. But first, the bats: A walk and a Sam Lubeck bunt that he beat out put runners on first and second in the home 4th. After Chase Pratt fouled out, Brian Gardner slammed a deep shot over the left fielder’s head, scoring both.
But that 2-0 lead was in immediate peril. The Indians, boasting one of Westchester’s most potent offenses, put their first two batters on in the top of the 5th. They did it the same way Rye had, with a walk and a muffed bunt. Two outs sandwiched around a steal brought the tying run to the plate with a runner on third.
Tim DeGraw in center and Little in left were both playing shallow when Meyerson served up a fastball that was crushed between them and heading for the fence. DeGraw had no chance, but Little — racing back and to his left — threw up his glove even as the ball was sailing over his head. He somehow snagged it with his back to the plate, preserving the lead and the game.
Afterwards, Rye Coach Mike Bruno was asked if he’d seen a better catch all season. “Not this season. Not for a long time,” he said, happily.
That John Jay runner on third who didn’t score loomed even larger when the Indians pushed a run across in the visiting 6th. But that was all she wrote, and a Meyerson strikeout to end the game would send the Garnets to Pomona.
Beating Lakeland was even tougher. Playing at night in the home park of the minor-league Rockland Boulders, Kirby started off on the right foot by striking out the side. In the second, though, two errors, a walk, and a wild pitch gave the 2013 champs a run. A dropped third strike, a wild pitch, a passed ball and finally a single plated a second Hornets run.
Everything turned around, though, in the home fourth. Brendan Tripodi lashed a one-out single and moved to third when Sam Lubeck did the same. Chase Pratt’s base hit drove in Tripodi and, when Lakeland second baseman Ryan Arena bobbled a Brendan Cassano grounder for an error, Lubeck came around to knot the score. A second Arena miscue brought Pratt in with the third run of the inning.
Meanwhile, George Kirby was going to 3-and-2 on nearly every hitter, either walking them or, more often, striking them out. In all, he would throw 153 pitches for the seven-inning game, which must be a Westchester record. When Lakeland’s Stephen Harten got to him for an opposite-field triple in the 6th, it cut Rye’s margin to one. Kirby was able to garner two more outs to close out the frame.
A quick three up/three down home 6th put Kirby right back out there to start the 7th. The player his coach called “a bulldog who refused to be beaten” would yield a single and then strike out the side for his ninth — and most important — win of the season.
The champion Garnets next play Section 9 champ Wallkill Friday in Saugerties.