HOLLAND PATENT — Fittingly, ‘Senior Night’ belonged to Holland Patent’s seniors.
Jake Beer pitched a five-hit shutout, striking out 14, while fellow seniors Jeff Sobel and Connor Stalker had back-to-back hits to account for the lone run of the game as the Golden Knights earned a tight 1-0 victory Thursday afternoon against visiting Canastota.
The win gives the Golden Knights (10-1, 15-1) a two-game lead in Center State Conference Division 1 with three games to play.
Back on April 24, it was Canastota ace Sam DiGeorge and the Raiders who earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Beer and Holland Patent. The same matchup resulted in another high-level duel.
“He’s my senior, he comes and does what he’s supposed to do every day and doesn’t seem to have any bad outings,” Holland Patent head coach Scott Parsons said of Beer.
“I’ll tell you the DiGeorge kid is good, he beat us 1-0 last time and he also pitched a great game in that one. But, Beer is a fighter. He does anything he can for me and today three seniors did it for us on Senior Day. I can’t say anything more than I’m proud of them.”
Hits and baserunners were scarce as both Beer and DiGeorge were abolutely in control from the opening inning. The two senior hurlers combined to allow no earned runs, zero walks, while combining to strike out 23 batters.
“They were both absolutely fantastic,” Canastota head coach Eric Van Slyke said regarding both starters. “Like I said to Scottie (Parsons) after the game ‘it was a tremendous high school baseball game.’ This time the ball bounced their way and they won.”
The pitchers were so tough on hitters that there were only a few scoring opportunities. Beer struck out nine batters in the first four innings, including six looking.
“(Beer) was throwing his off-speed stuff for a strike early in the count and that’s huge,” Van Slyke said. “Whenever you’re pitching and you get ahead in the count it makes hitters very defensive … and we were very defensive swinging the entire ballgame … and that was the difference.
“We just have to keep battling, that’s all … You got to come out, make plays and hit the ball.”
Meanwhile, DiGeorge was also mowing down batters with a lethal three-pitch mix of fastball, slider and change-up.
He struck out six through three innings and upped his game when runners did get in scoring position.
“I trust in my defense a lot and threw my off-speed in the dirt,” said the senior right-hander, who also had two hits for the Raiders (7-3, 10-3). “It’s really what worked. If you have good command, you can get away with a lot of things.
“It was a tough loss but playing better competition makes you better. So, it’s only going to make us better because you have to be playing your best baseball at the end of the season and sectionals, not the middle of the season.”
Beer didn’t allow a baserunner to reach scoring position until the top of the sixth, when Kenny Coe and DiGeorge hit back-to-back one-out singles.
However, Beer got himself out of the jam by inducing pinch-hitter Devin Denney to bounce into an inning-ending double play. Beer started the big defensive play by backhanding the grounder. He then pivoted and threw to shortstop Mike Benedetto at second, who finished off the inning by throwing to Rob Maciol at first.
The strong defensive play, as it often does, led to some offense as Holland Patent plated the game’s lone run in the bottom of the inning.
With one down in the bottom of the sixth, Sobel, who grounded out and struck out in his first two at-bats, hit a bullet to center field. The ball tailed toward left-center and tipped off the glove of an outstretched Matt DiGeorge to get things started.
Stalker, who also started 0-for-2, followed by popping a soft-liner to center for a single. The bouncing ball was then misplayed, allowing Sobel to charge home and break the scoreless tie.
“He throws hard,” Sobel said of DiGeorge. “But Coach P says we just need one. It just takes one at-bat a game. We won 1-0 and it was the one double to center and Connor came up and drove me in.”
In the top of the seventh, Beer retired the Raiders in order. He got a groundout for the first out, then notched strikeouts 13 and 14 to close the game out.
“My curveball was big and I used my fastball outside,” Beer said. “It’s a huge win for us and Clinton coming out and beating them yesterday was huge for us. Now we have a good lead.”
Getting a big win on Senior Night was extra special for Stalker.
“It’s huge beating Canastota after losing to them 1-0,” Stalker said. “It’s massive and gives us a chance to win the league. Going forward it’s huge to get a win and be able to do it against a kid (DiGeorge) like that.”
The victory against a top competitor and one of the best pitchers in the section should give the Golden Knights confidence going forward. Winning the division is the first goal, but the real prize on all their minds is bringing home a long-awaited sectional championship.
“It would be the first one in so long,” Sobel said of winning a sectional title. “It would mean everything to go out on a high note.”
Holland Patent lost in the Class B final in 2015 and has reached the semis several different times in the past 10 years. Parsons is hopeful his strong senior class and overall team chemistry can help his team take the final step.
“Our goal is to win sections,” Parsons said. “I’ve been here 33 years and we’ve never won one. We’ve been close many times, but we’ve just had a hard time getting over the hump, but maybe this is our year.”
Benedetto, Joe Diana and Matt Dyer also had hits for Holland Patent, which plays Clinton at Hamilton College on Friday. Matt DiGeorge and Colby Bixby had singles for the Raiders, who also are back in action Friday with a road game at Adirondack.
Holland Patent 1, Canastota 0
Canastota 000 000 0–0 5 3
Holland Patent 000 001 x–1 5 0
W: Jake Beer. L: Sam DiGeorge. 2B: HP, Jeff Sobel.
Records: Holland Patent 10-1, 15-1; Canastota 7-3, 10-3.
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at email@example.com