WHITESBORO – In its last six games against Tri Valley League competition, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill has outscored opponents 83-14.
The Red Devils knew coming into Thursday’s clash with previously unbeaten Whitesboro, they’d likely face a seven-inning test. The Warriors gave the Red Devils all they could handle in a tight pitching duel between Whitesboro’s Doug Rando and VVS’ Dewey Roden.
Eventually, the Red Devils would come out on top in the battle of division leaders, plating two runs in the top of the seventh and then staving off a Whitesboro rally in the bottom of the inning for a 3-1 victory at Whitesboro Middle School.
Roden earned the victory, striking out 12 in 6.2 innings, and came through with the game-winning RBI-single in the seventh as the Red Devils improved to 5-0 in the league and 8-1 overall. Nate Palmer, Tyler Rotach and Alex Kipp had two hits apiece for VVS, which has now defeated Whitesboro eight straight times.
“I think this will help us,” Roden said. “We have played a lot of games that weren’t that close and this is a huge confidence boost knowing we can come through in a tight game. The true hero today was the bench. They kept us pumped up the whole game.”
Rando, a crafty southpaw, kept VVS’ powerful lineup off balance through six-plus innings. Joey Crossley had two hits and scored on Dom Fasolo’s fourth-inning single for the Warriors (4-1, 7-1).
“Doug is a gamer,” Whitesboro head coach Tom Maggiolino said. “He elevates his game against better teams and he was sharp with his location inside and outside and up and down.”
Both pitchers were on point beginning in the first inning. Roden retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, with the only base runner coming on a two-out error in the third inning. Rando did allow three hits through the first three innings, but came up with a great mix of fastballs, change-ups and curves when he needed them to put up zeros.
“I just hit my spots wherever coach calls it,” Rando said. “I was able to strike Dewey out with two inside fastballs that I hit my spot exactly.”
Rando also got some help from his defense as left fielder Fasolo saved a run by getting a great break and running down a two-out liner by Kipp to end the top of the second.
The Red Devils struck first in the fourth inning as Nell led off by driving a high fly ball to right field. The ball, aided by a nice breeze, kept carrying and glanced off Trey Szatko’s glove for a leadoff triple. Nell came in to score on Tyler Rotach’s sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.
VVS nearly made it 2-0 on the next at-bat as Blake VanDreason’s fly ball to right-center was dropped center fielder Joe Ruggiero. After the throw missed the cutoff, VanDreason was sent home, but shortstop Joe Panuccio’s throw home to catcher Cam Hunter was in time for the run-saving out.
The Warriors responded in the bottom half of the inning as Crossley singled up the middle and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Szatko. With two out and facing a 2-2 count, senior Dom Fasolo was able to bounce a high-chopper up the middle to bring home Crossley with the game-knotting run.
Each team stranded runners in the fifth inning and VVS threatened to take the lead in the top of the sixth as Rotach started the inning with a single up the middle and moved to second on VanDreason’s sacrifice bunt. However, the inning quickly ended as Alec Musacchio’s liner was snagged by Panuccio and his throw to Crossley beat Rotach back to the bag for an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Warriors nearly scored the go-ahead run in the exact same fashion as their first score. Crossley laced a one-out single up the middle and was moved to second by another sac bunt by Szatko. Fasolo fought to a full count, but this time, Roden would win the battle with a strikeout as the game moved to the seventh tied 1-1.
The Red Devils got the start to the inning they needed as Kipp drilled a hard grounder through the left side for a leadoff single.
“It was huge to get up in the count and I saw fastball on a 2-1 count and drove it for a big hit,” Kipp said.
Andrew Wuest was sent in to pinch run for Kipp and quickly moved to second on T.J. Horodnick’s sacrifice bunt. Palmer followed by lining a single to left to bring up Roden with runners on the corners with one out.
Roden, who struggled, striking out twice in getting off to an 0-for-3 start, made an adjustment and roped a liner through the right side for the go-ahead RBI single that also moved Palmer to third.
“He was starting me off by throwing everything away so I got right on top of the plate,” Roden said. “I got a curveball down the middle and drove it. It was a huge at-bat.”
Roden’s hit ended Rando’s outing and junior Collin McAndrew came in relief to face dangerous No. 3 hitter Davey Moffett, who had a single earlier in the game.
Facing a 3-2 count, Moffett, gave the Red Devils some insurance with an RBI sac fly to shallow center field that scored the speedy Palmer to make it 3-1.
“We did a good job facing adversity today,” Rando said. “C’Mac (McAndrew) came in and shut them down when we faced adversity. Showing that we can handle adversity will help us. It builds character.”
The Warriors wouldn’t go quietly in the seventh as McAndrew led off with a hard-hit infield single. Roden sandwiched two strikeouts around a walk before reaching the 105-pitch limit one out short of a complete game.
VVS head coach Chad Hodkinson went to VanDreason to get the final out, but the junior’s first pitch was in the dirt and bounced to the backstop to move the runners up 90 feet and put the tying run in scoring position with Ruggiero at the plate.
Ruggiero and VanDreason battled to a 3-2 count, before Whitesboro’s leadoff hitter sent a sinking fly ball to shallow right-center. Fittingly, Roden, who moved to right field after the pitching change, charged in to corral the final out and secure a big victory for the Red Devils.
“I heard the center fielder (Jake Engler) grunting and figured I had to make the play,” Roden said. “I don’t usually play outfield. I’m not too stellar out there. I’m a work in progress, but I’ll play wherever coach puts me.”
While the Red Devils have a good streak going against Whitesboro, this game closely resembled most of those games.
“It was a typical VVS-Whitesboro game,” Hodkinson said. “Rando pitched really well. He’s thrown against us a couple times and always pitches well. He’s always in control and doesn’t get flustered. Dewey was great. He probably would’ve liked to have that pitch back on the single up the middle (Fasolo’s RBI), but he threw a hell of a game.”
Both won their respective divisions last season and are well on their way to repeating. Whitesboro went on to win the sectional title and make a run all the way to the New York State Final Four, and games like Thursday’s can help prepare the Warriors for what is likely ahead.
“I thought it was an outstanding game,” Maggiolino said. “It was a playoff-atmosphere game where. Our kids battled mentally and physically and fought until the last pitch. … “We’re just not getting the timely hits right now.”
After defeating Rome Free Academy 9-1 Tuesday and New Hartford 24-0 Wednesday, the Red Devils received the test they needed.
“Coach said this game was not going to be easy,” Kipp said. “He told us that if we expect to come in here and score a lot of runs, it’s not going to happen. (Whitesboro) is one of the better teams we’ll face all season. They are not in our class but are in our league, and it’s nice to get this league win.”
VVS 3, Whitesboro 1
VVS 000 100 2—3 11 1
Whitesboro 000 100 0—1 5 1
Pitching: VVS, Dewey Roden (W, 6.2 IP); Blake Van Dreason (0.1); Whitesboro, Doug Rando (L, 6.1 IP); Collin McAndrew (0.2). 3B: Zach Nell.
Records: VVS 5-0, 9-1; Whitesboro 4-1, 7-1.