ONONDAGA –Whitesboro’s mantra all season has been to ‘worry about the next pitch.’
The Warriors were able to apply that mindset in gutting out a 4-2 win over Franklin Academy in Saturday’s Class A Regional Final at Onondaga Community College. With the victory, the Warriors advance to their second-ever appearance in the New York State Final Four. Whitesboro (21-4) plays Vestal at 4 p.m. Friday in the New York State Final Four at Union-Endicott High School. Vestal, out of Section 4, defeated Saugerties 8-4 to advance to the final four.
“We’ve been a family since day one,” Whitesboro head coach Tom Maggiolino said. “It’s not about grade level. They are all competitors, have pride, and want to go out and compete.”
Whitesboro led 3-0 after the first inning, and aside from a turbulent third inning, starting pitcher Doug Rando was able to keep the Huskies bats silent. The junior southpaw pitched six innings of two-hit baseball, striking out eight. Senior Pat Galer worked the seventh inning to earn the save and give the Warriors a regional title.
“Knowing I had a 3-0 lead really took the pressure off,” Rando said. “I knew I only had to throw strikes and let the defense make plays.”
The Warriors didn’t waste time jumping out to the lead in the bottom of the first off Franklin Academy starter Zach Monica. Galer got things started with a one-out triple to left-center field, and then senior designated hitter Matt Parkinson legged out an infield hit to give the Warriors runners on the corners. After sophomore cleanup Avery Cook drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases, Rando helped out his own cause with a two-run single up the middle to give Warriors a 2-0 lead.
“With the bases loaded, I went up to the plate knowing all I had to do was put the bat on the ball to score a run and I was able to take it up the middle,” said Rando, who also singled in the fifth.
Joe Ruggerio’s sacrifice fly to center scored Cook to make it 3-0 before Monica ended the inning by striking out Zach Wessinger, then settled in to keep the Warriors off balance, and allowing the Huskies to climb back into the game.
The Huskies’ bats responded and made it a game with a two-run third inning, highlighted by a two-out, two-run single to right by Jordan Scharf.
Whitesboro scraped out a run in the bottom of the fourth as Ruggerio singled to right-center, then advanced on a bloop single by Brad Blum. Ruggerio moved to third on a wild pitch, and got a good jump on a passed ball to score Whitesboro’s fourth run.
Ruggerio’s ability to anticipate was crucial in the Warriors being able to steal a run and gain a bit of separation.
“Magg tells us always be ready for anything in the dirt,” Ruggerio said. “I got a good break on it and was able to score. He taught us well.”
The Huskies didn’t have a hit after the third inning, however, some spotty defense by Whitesboro along with a few wild pitches allowed the Section-10 champs to challenge Whitesboro’s lead in the fifth and sixth innings.
Whenever the Huskies attempted to rally, Rando was able to bring his best stuff in tight situations, pitching his way out of several jams, allowing the Warriors to hold the lead throughout.
In the fifth, back-to-back errors by Wessinger and Blum gave the Huskies runners at first and second with no outs. Never rattled, Rando retired the next three batters. First, he got Monica to popout to shortstop Joey Panuccio. Then after striking out Evan Keegan looking, Rando induced Jordan Scharf into an unassisted groundout to Cook at first base.
“That’s Doug,” Maggiolino said. “He always has poise and control in tough moments. That’s why he’s able to work through innings like that.”
An inning later, Rando struck out the leadoff hitter, but Nate Welch was able to reach on a dropped third strike. Welch moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, but consecutive groundouts to Panuccio and Wessinger ended the inning.
“Basically coach told me that there’s going to be adversity and to worry about the next pitch not the previous pitch, and to have faith in the defense … and trust them,” Rando said.
Maggiolino was especially proud of Wessinger’s play. The senior third baseman had two previous errors, but made the toughest play he faced all afternoon to save a run in the top of the sixth. With a runner on third, Wessinger moved quickly to his right to corral Lane Fountain’s tough two-hopper and gunned it to Cook for the third out.
“That was uncharacteristic of us,” Maggiolino said of the Warriors’ previous errors. “The last two plays were big. We talked to (Wessinger) in the dugout and he was able to battle back and make those plays. We always talk about letting things go and moving on to the next pitch.”
In the seventh, Galer allowed a one-out hit-by-pitch, but got the second out on a force-out from Wessinger to Blum, then struck out Keegan looking to end the game.
Whitesboro, ranked No. 3 in the latest Class A state poll, won sectional titles in 2010 and 2011. The Warriors reached the final four for the first time in program history in 2010 before losing to Pittsford in the semifinals.
Now these Warriors hope to take it a few steps further and claim the first state title for the program.
“We have two more,” Rando said. “We have to rely on each other and hopefully we’ll get to the championship game.”
For Maggiolino, it will take more of the same.
“There’s really nothing to change,” Maggiolino said. “It’s nothing new, it’ll be the same formula.”
Blum had a hit and David Camerota had a bunt single and reached all three at-bats for the Warriors.
Class A Regional Final
Franklin Academy 002 000 0—2 2 0
Whitesboro 300 100 X—4 7 3
W: Doug Rando. L: Zach Monica. 3B: Wboro, Pat Galer.