UTICA – Oneida Post came oh so close to a perfect season.
However, Oneida’s perfect run came to an end in the championship game of the New York State Junior Legion Tournament Saturday at Murnane Field, losing 3-1 to Vestal Post.
Vestal, behind good pitching from Kyle Taborne and Matt Arthur, held Oneida to four hits in handing the District V champs their only loss of the season.
“Going undefeated just doesn’t happen in baseball,” said Mallinder, whose team finished their incredible season 24-1. “Unfortunately we didn’t play our game at the worst time. We just didn’t hit. … It was a great year though.”
Taborne allowed four hits and one unearned run in 4.2 innings, but was relieved by Arthur with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth. Arthur retired all seven batters he faced and got Oneida’s cleanup hitter, Ryan Chevier, to pop out to short stop Owen Dando, who made a nice sliding catch in shallow center field to end Oneida’s best rally.
“Kyle is my No. 1 pitcher,” Vestal coach Charlie Dando said of his starter. “He pumps his fastball in the low 80s and has a curve in the 60s and a changeup in the 50s. So he has 30 mph speed change from his fastball to his knuckle-change. He kept their kids off balance. …. And (Matt) just threw strikes and let our defense make plays.”
Oneida grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Jordan Barlow reached on a dropped third strike. Barlow stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch for Oneida’s only run.
Vestal, the District VI champs, took the lead for good in the top of the second as Derek Avery led off the inning with a double down the left field line. After a bunt single by Shawn Chermak, Arthur drove home Avery, but Oneida center fielder Will Merrell gunned down Chermak at the plate to keep it tied 1-1. After Devin Brown drew a one-out walk and Ryan Kerley singled to left to load the bases, Trey Avery drew another walk to bring home Arthur to give Vestal a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Oneida starter Sammy DiGeorge settled down after a shaky second inning and kept his team in it by allowing just one hit of the next two innings. However, in the top of the fifth, Vestal added an insurance run as Josh Rudock bombed a triple to center and was driven home by Avery’s two-out double to left center.
Avery was the offensive player of the game for Vestal. The 14-year-old rising freshman had three hits, including two doubles, while driving home a run and scoring another.
“It feels awesome,” Avery said. “It’s good to drive in a run and score to get us a lead so we could eventually win a state championship.”
Every one of Avery’s three hits came with two strikes, which showed his ability to come through in the clutch.
DiGeorge pitched 4.2 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. He struck out four and walked two before giving way to Ryan Chevier, who didn’t allow a hit in 2.1 innings of relief.
Oneida’s pitching wasn’t the issue during their attempt at perfection. It was their inability to consistently string offense together. Their lone strong inning at the plate came in the fifth as Danny Myatt got it started with a one-out single to center. After Luke Albro flew out to right, Hank Froass singled to left and Jordan Barlow loaded the bases with a single to left.
Trailing 3-1 with two-out, Chevier hit a soft sinking blooper to center that was tracked down by Vestal shortstop Owen Dando who made a nice sliding catch to end the rally.
“We just couldn’t get them going,” Albro said of his team’s silent bats. “When we finally did, we hit it right to them. We fielded fine and pitched fine. It was just our bats. They made the plays. There’s nothing we could do about that.”
Coming within one victory of completing a dream season was tough for Albro and Oneida take.
“It was a great run, but it means nothing right now because of this loss,” said Albro, who lined out to Arthur to end the game. “But, not many teams can say they made it to the state championship.”
Mallinder focused on the positives and all the victories that his team accomplished during a special season.
“The kids had great attitudes all year,” Mallinder said. “They never gave up and kept working hard. It was a good group of kids, and for my first year, I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
Winning a state title in their first year as a junior legion program was an incredible achievement for Vestal’s coaches and players.
“We’ve been coaching some of these kids since they were seven years old,” Dando said regarding to himself and assistant coach Kirk Avery. “These boys have been working hard … training all winter, and they are just a good group of athletes.”
“This means a lot,” Avery said. “It’s our first year starting this and it’s good for our town, our school and our post to bring them a championship.”
Vestal Post 3, Oneida Post 1
Vestal 020 010 0—3 8 1
Oneida 100 000 0—1 4 0
W: Kyle Taborne. L: Sammy DiGeorge. 2B-Vestal, Avery 2. 3B-Vestal, Rudock.
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at