CANTON - It took until the later innings, but the Massena Central baseball team finally solved Peru’s crafty lefthander, Conor Casey, in the first round of the Class A state tournament on Friday afternoon at Tom Fay Field.
Isaiah Dillabough, one of several lefthanded Raider batters stymied throughout the afternoon by Casey’s smooth blend of curveballs, changeups and fastballs, stroked a one-out RBI-single in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Raiders a 3-2 victory Massena (14-3) faces a quick turnaround today when it takes on Averill Park of Section 2 in the state quarterfinals this afternoon at the College of Saint Rose diamond in Albany starting at 1 p.m. Averill Park advanced by outlasting Section 3 champion Jamesville-DeWitt 1-0 in another opening round game on Friday.
“It was a low fastball, I just choked up and poked it to right field,” said Dillabough. “He (Casey) really had our number with that commanding curveball. But our guys are fighters and we came back.”
Massena starter Rory Corcoran pitched into the eighth inning where he walked a pair with one out. Jacob Vierno came on in relief and threw just three pitches to earn the victory, inducing an inning-ending double play.
“I didn’t feel I had my best stuff, my velocity was a little off, but I had good defense behind me,” said Corcoran whose team played error-less baseball. “Massena hasn’t won this game in a while, so this is big for us.”
Peru (9-6) never trailed until the final pitch of the game. The Section 7 champions opened the scoring in the top of the second when Blake Altimer led off with a single and came around to score on a safety squeeze bunt by Jon Plesser-Belair.
Massena tied it in the third when Patrick Manning blasted a double to left, was sacrificed to third by Logan Deshane and then squeezed home by Jeremiah Reagan. But Peru again took the lead in the fourth when Altizer was hit by a pitch leading off the inning and scored on a long double to right-center by Tristan Archambault.
In the last of the seventh, Massena’s Isaac Ward led off with a hard-hit infield single followed by a bunt single by Tyler Haas. The runners were sacrificed to second and third by Cameron Marsh before Ward scored on an error by the third baseman.
Dillabough’s heroics in the eighth were set up by a leadoff infield single by Bailey Hewlett who moved to second on the Indians’ third throwing error of the day.
“Conor Casey (11 strikeouts) had our lefties off-balance, but credit our kids for making him work. We put the ball in play. And Isaiah did a nice job waiting him out at the end,” said Raider coach Greg Paquin. ‘We did a great job executing bunts which has always been a staple of our offense at Massena going back to when my father (Darrell Paquin) coached.”
Peru coach Brian Marino gave credit to the Raiders.
“We couldn’t get the clutch hit and Massena got it in the bottom of the eighth. And you can’t make errors against a quality opponent. Good teams make you pay,” he noted.
Averill Park (12-11) has traveled the underdog route through the post-season, rising from the eighth seed to claim its first ever sectional title with a 2-1 win over Burnt Hills.
In a Class B opening round game played at SLU following the Massena game, OFA outscored Section 7 champion Saranac Central 8-5. The Blue Devils (11-6) will now get set to host Section 2 champion Schalmont this afternoon at SLU starting at 4:30 p.m.
A Class D opener saw Heuvelton blank Section 2 champion Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville 4-0. The Bulldogs will now host Section 7 champion Lake Placid at SLU today at 1 p.m.