UTICA – It’s been a memorable week for Whitestown Post manager Paul Engelhart.
The longtime coach notched his 400th victory last Friday in a 3-2 win over Lee Post. On a hot and humid Thursday afternoon at Murnane Field, Engelhart’s squad played great team baseball in wrapping up the District V title with a 5-1 victory over Smith Post.
“It’s been a great week,” Engelhart said. “Last Friday I got my 400th and now getting districts today … that’s a hell of a week.”
Kevin Flynn pitched a complete game, allowing only a harmless run in the ninth, and shortstop Jack Acquaviva bombed a three-run homer in the fourth inning for Whitestown (23-4), who advances to play in the New York State American Legion Tournament July 26-30 at Murnane Field in Utica. Whitestown opens the tournament Tuesday at 8 p.m. against Amsterdam.
Whitestown took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Pat Galer led off with a single and after Acquaviva drew a 1-out walk, Wessinger hit a chopper up the middle that was mishandled by Smith second basemen Zack Cortese and Galer scored.
The home team doubled its advantage in the second as Jimmy Bushey reached on a one-out single and later came home as Nick Casper singled to right. Bushey was being held up at third, but scored after right fielder Tyler Schoff didn’t field the ball cleanly.
The big blow for Whitestown came with two out in the bottom of the fourth as Acquaviva timed a high fastball by Smith pitcher Matt Zakala and drove it over the left field wall to extend the lead to 5-0.
“It was a fastball,” Acquaviva said. “I’ve been struggling all year against him and finally got a hold of one. It feels great to finally get it done. We came in last year, practically undefeated and didn’t win. I think this year we didn’t have a target on our back and we played better. It helped us.”
The home run was huge for Whitestown and deflating for Smith, which finishes the season with a 20-4 mark.
“Jack’s home run with two out was gigantic,” Engelhart said. “It loosened us all up and kind of set the tone for us.”
After leaving runners in scoring position the first two innings, Flynn really found his rhythm in the middle innings, facing just 16 batters over his next five innings. During that dominant stretch, Flynn recorded eight of his 11 strikeouts and had Smith batters guessing.
“My curveball was definitely working the best,” Flynn said. “I worked it inside and then to the middle, then outside. It feels good. I haven’t had a championship opportunity since Little League.”
Even during the ninth inning, where Flynn allowed three of Smith’s seven hits, Engelhart trusted his star pitcher to finish the job.
“Kevin has been our ace the past four years,” Engelhart said. “You watch him and wonder how he gets it done. He doesn’t have a mid-80s fastball like most of the other aces. He just gets it done. We use his off speed to set up his fastball. It’s reverse pitching. I compare him to a Greg Maddux. He paints the corners and he is just gritty. Nobody wants the ball more than him.”
Any time Smith tried to put together a rally, Flynn and Whitestown’s defense stifled their hopes. In the fifth, Flynn started a 1-6-3 double play and in the eighth Whitestown ended the inning as Acquaviva caught Zakala’s lined drive and doubled off Cortese at first base.
Smith Post manager Tony Abone, Jr. loved the effort he received from his pitcher. Zakala allowed eight hits and just three earned runs, while striking out seven Whitestown batters.
“Mark threw one bad pitch today,” Abone Jr. “He got one up and in on Jack and that’s what Jack can do. … To pitch like that on three days rest was all we could ask of him. Kevin threw well. He had good command of his off-speed stuff and did a great job.”
Smith lost 10-4 to Whitestown Monday night and had to win four games just to reach the finals.
“It’s a long road back to get here, but our boys played hard,” Tony Abone said. “To play four games in less than 48 hours is tough for any team. It’s not an excuse; we put ourselves in that position. … But we fought and I’m really proud of them.”
Bushey had two hits and scored twice, and Galer reached three times and scored two runs for Whitestown. Nico Ramos, Colin Shunk and Schoff each had two hits for Smith.
Whitestown has peaked at the right time, romping through the District V playoffs by outscoring the opposition 33-10 in four victories. Now they head to the state playoffs with plenty of momentum.
It is the first title for Whitestown Post since the team won back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012. Flynn, Matt Yozzo, Steven Schmidt, and catcher Matt Parkinson joined Whitestown Post in 2013 and have been chasing that district title for four seasons.
“That’s been the goal since 2013,” Engelhart said. “They finally got it this year.”
Flynn, who will be a sophomore this fall at Clarkson University, is enjoying every minute of his final run as an American Legion player. And hopefully this run can end in matching Whitestown’s 2011 team that captured the state title.
“We are just getting the job done and having fun doing it,” Flynn said. “We are confident and are having a lot of fun.”
Whitestown Post 5, Smith Post 1
Smith 000 000 001—1 7 2
Whitestown 110 300 00X—5 8 0
W-Flynn. L-Zakala. 2B-Smith, Shunk, Schoff. HR-Whitestown, Acquaviva.
Whitestown Post Team Members: Jack Acquaviva, Griffin Baur, Jimmy Bushey, Dave Camerota, Nick Casper, Kevin Flynn, Cody Fowler, Patrick Galer, Ty Gnatek, Ryan Humphrey, Ryan LaManque, Ryan McAndrew, Matt Parkinson, Steven Schmidt, Zack Wessinger, Matt Yozzo. Coaches: Paul Engelhart, Phil Beck, Chris Flynn, Rich LaManque and John Lewek.
Past 6 District V Champions
2016: Whitestown Post
2015: Utica Post
2014: Smith Post
2013: Smith Post
2012: Whitestown Post
2011: Whitestown Post