ENDICOTT – The Whitesboro Warriors’ amazing run to the New York State Class A Baseball Final Four ended Friday afternoon with a 7-0 defeat to Vestal at Union-Endicott High School.
The Warriors (21-5) made uncharacteristic errors behind starter Avery Cook to fall behind 3-0 in the first inning, and couldn’t come up with the big hit to get back into the game in a disappointing ending to a season that saw them climb all the way to No. 1 in the state rankings.
Vestal sophomore ace Kyle Taborne went the distance, keeping the Warriors powerful lineup off balance throughout with his biting curveball. Taborne, who pitched Vestal’s Junior Legion team to the state title at Murnane Field last summer, scattered six hits and struck out seven. Connor Harding (leadoff/shortstop) had three hits and Pat Porter and Matt McAllister had two apiece for Vestal, who plays at 1 p.m. Saturday for the state title against defending-champion Wantagh.
“They hit the ball early and we were sloppy,” Whitesboro head coach Tom Maggiolino said. “They jumped on us and capitalized. We had opportunities to get outs in the first.
“Overall that kid was a buzz-saw,” Maggiolino said of Taborne. “He was tough. He had that curveball … it was an equalizer. It was nasty. Our kids were buckling.”
David Camerota had two hits, while Pat Galer, Joey Panuccio, Matt Parkinson and Zach Wessinger had a hit apiece for the Section 3 champions. However, whenever the Warriors put runners on and threatened, Taborne was able to get out of it behind his curve and solid defense from the Golden Bears. In all, Whitesboro stranded nine runners in the first five innings and 11 for the game.
“It’s just a pitch I use whenever I need a strikeout or groundball,” Taborne said. “That’s the pitch I go to.”
The Golden Bears (16-7) helped Taborne’s cause and mindset, plating three runs in the first, helped by two errors by the Warriors. Harding led off by driving Avery Cook’s first pitch for a single up the middle. Porter’s bunt was mishandled by Cook and the Golden Bears were in business with runners at first and second with nobody out.
After Cook struck out McAllister, James Moyer ripped a topspin tough hopper to first that was mishandled by Doug Rando and scored Harding. Owen Dando followed with an RBI double down the left field line and Ben Coscia’s sacrifice fly scored Moyer to stake Taborne with a 3-0 lead.
“It feels amazing knowing there’s no pressure on you,” Taborne said of having a 3-0 lead before he had to take the mound. “So, it’s just go out and do what I do best. I came out and throw what I throw, make the defense work and make plays for me.”
The Warriors put two runners on in the first three innings but were unable to come up with the clutch hit to change the momentum.
“He had good off-speed that was really the difference,” said Galer, who laid down a perfect bunt in the third inning for a leadoff single. “It was just a momentum swing early … Sometimes it’s just not your day at the plate.”
The Golden Bears tacked on two more in the top of the third as Porter singled, then scored on a long double to left-center field by McAllister. Moyer’s RBI single to center scored McAllister for a 5-0 lead for the Section 4 champs.
After Harding ripped a one-out single in the fifth, Maggiolino called on senior Noah Britt to relieve Cook, who pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and five runs (one earned) while striking out four.
“I wanted to come in and give our team a boost,” Noah Britt said. “I just kept the ball down and located my pitches and tried to keep it close.”
Britt, in his first playoff appearance, was solid in relief, retiring the first eight batters he faced before allowing Vestal to post two runs on three hits in the top of the seventh.
“Noah did a great job,” Maggiolino said. “He kept it down in the zone and kept them in check for a while.”
Vestal head coach Tank Anderson has the utmost confidence in Taborne, who ended with 115 pitches. At 5-9, 145 pounds, the 15-year-old Taborne has tremendous command of his pitches and his emotions on the mound.
“He just has that God-given ability to throw a baseball,” Anderson said. “Every big game we want him on the mound.”
Although he won’t be able to pitch the clincher like he did for his legion team, Taborne is excited of the prospect of winning two major state titles in less than a year.
“That would be pretty amazing since I still have two years left,” Taborne said.
Despite the loss the Warriors have accomplished a lot this season and built long-lasting memories. Whitesboro featured a great mix of youth and veteran leadership, leading to victories and titles.
“Definitely the championships,” Galer said about what he’ll remember. “Winning sectionals and regional titles … there is nothing like it.”
Maggiolino enjoyed this team from the very beginning and was emotional after the game.
“I look at this year as the best season in school history from a wins and championship standpoint,” Maggiolino said. “It was a special year and this group deserves everything they got.”
Class A State Semifinal
Vestal 7, Whitesboro 0
Vestal 302 000 2—7 9 1
Whitesboro 000 000 0—0 6 5
W: Kyle Taborne (5-1). L: Avery Cook (5-4). 3B: Vestal, Connor Harding. 2B: Vestal: Owen Dando, Matt McAllister.