By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
BINGHAMTON — It was the highest of highs, then the lowest of lows in a matter of minutes for Tioga as Cooperstown scored three runs after a potential game-ending call at second went against the Tigers in an 8-7 loss here Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the New York State Class C baseball playoffs.
“We went and scouted them Sunday, and I knew it would be a tough game,” said Tioga coach Kevin Evanek. “I felt we were evenly-matched and it played out that way today.
“It was a game of momentum,” added Evanek. “We just came up short.”
With the game tied at 4-4 after 5 1/2 innings, Tioga’s St. Bonaventure-bound senior Pierce Hendershot lit up the scoreboard in the home half of the sixth with a one-out, two-run home run over the 330-foot marker on the eight-foot left-field fence to give the Tigers a 6-4 lead.
“I think it was a 2-1 count, and I was sitting on a fastball,” said Hendershot. ”I was looking for a pitch I could drive. I had to get one into the gap to get (Christian) Weaver in from first base.
“I thought I got it all,” he added. “I knew it was gone.”
“It wasn’t a line-drive either, it was up there. It was a shot,” said Evanek. “He’s been tremendous for us all season. Anyone who has followed us knows what he can do, he’s had big hit after big hit this season.”
With two outs, senior John Worthing singled to right field, and scored when sophomore Derrick Gage’s hard line drive eluded a diving centerfielder and rolled to the wall, allowing Gage to reach third for a triple to make it 7-4.
Hendershot, who had thrown 96 pitches through six innings, took the mound in the seventh 29 pitches away from the pitch-count limit.
With one out, sophomore Kendall Haney hit a 3-2 pitch over left-fielder Seth Franks' head for his third double of the game.
With two outs, Ben Tarufo hit a grounder to shortstop Brady Worthing, but his throw skipped past first baseman Derrick Gage. Gage alertly retrieved the ball and fired a throw to second base, which easily beat Tarufo, and the Tigers erupted in celebration for the apparent game-ending out, but the umpire ruled Tarufo avoided the tag.
“I thought, we all thought, we were out of the game with that play at second base,” said Evanek. “That (umpire) made a safe call before the play even ended. Then, with the top of their order up, they rallied.
“Hats off to Cooperstown, they never gave up,” added Evanek “Our guys put out a tremendous effort today, too; that’s just the way baseball goes.”
Hendershot had the next batter in an 0-2 count, and after a breaking ball in the dirt, watched two pitches he thought were strikes on the outside corner called balls. After a foul ball, he walked the batter to put runners on first and second.
“I thought the strike zone was really tight today,” said Hendershot. “I thought I was hitting the corners and I wasn’t getting the calls, but that wasn’t the problem, you still have to get outs. You can’t blame the game on the umpires, sometimes that’s just the way it goes.”
With Hendershot at the pitch count limit, sophomore Alex Hascup hit a 1-1 pitch to left field for an RBI single to cut Tioga’s lead to 7-6.
Junior Thomas Cook relieved, and following a double-steal on his first pitch to move the runners up to second and third, he quickly jumped ahead of senior Jesse Furnari 1-2 in the count, but Furnari hit a sharp grounder that hugged the third-base line. It caromed off a diving Hendershot’s glove, and rolled into foul territory, plating the two base-runners to give Cooperstown an 8-7 lead.
“The top of their line-up is tough, and it seemed like they were up in every single inning,” said Evanek.
Cook struck out the next batter to avoid further damage, but sophomore Chris Ubner, who started on the mound for the Hawkeyes, switched back to pitcher in the bottom of the seventh and retired the Tigers in order to preserve the win.
“We’d get two runs, and they’d get them right back,” said Hendershot. “They fought hard, just like we did. I think we were a pair of well-matched teams.”
Cooperstown appeared poised to take control of the game at the outset.
Junior Ryan Lansing led off the game with a single to left field, and Haney, who was 3-for-3 with three doubles and three runs scored, worked an eight-pitch walk. Ubner then helped himself with an RBI double to give the Hawkeyes a quick 1-0 lead.
The Tigers escaped further damage, however, thanks to a botched squeeze play that resulted in catcher Mason Booser tagging Haney out at the plate. Hendershot then registered a strikeout to end the inning.
“(Pierce) had a rough first inning, and we were lucky to escape with just one run,” said Evanek.
Brady Worthing led off the home half of the second inning with a single, and scored on a booming one-out RBI double into the gap by senior Derrick Barto to tie the game.
Following consecutive walks to senior Christian Weaver and sophomore Seth Franks loaded the bases, Hendershot stroked a two-run single to left-center field to make it 3-1.
After hitting Booser with a pitch, Ubner was relieved by Haney, who struck out the first batter he faced. Gage then hit a scorching line drive toward right field, but first baseman Eric Deysenroth made a diving grab to save at least two runs, and keep the score at 3-1.
The Hawkeyes answered with two runs in the top of the third inning to knot the score at 3-3, but Tioga responded in the home half of the frame on a two-out single by Hendershot and a ringing RBI-double over the left-fielder’s head by Booser to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.
Cooperstown tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the fifth with an unearned run.
Hendershot homered and singled, scored two runs, and had three RBI, and Gage tripled and singled, and drove in one run to pace Tioga’s eight-hit attack.
Booser doubled, drove in one run, and stole a base for the Tigers, while Barto doubled, scored one run, and knocked in one run, John Worthing and Brady Worthing each singled and scored one run, and Weaver scored two runs and stole one base.
Hendershot, who recorded three wins in the Section IV playoffs, was tagged with the loss, allowing eight runs — five earned — on seven hits, while striking out eight and walking five.
Tioga wraps up the 2019 campaign with a 17-5 record, winning its third Section IV title in five years in the process.
“It’s been a great season,” said Evanek.
“We were a little disappointed with how the whole IAC Championships scenario broke down because we thought we were the best team,” he noted. “We started the season 1-2 and dug ourselves a hole, but we got hot when we needed to at Sectional time.
“It was great to win a Section IV title with this crew.
“I’ve been part of a lot of Section IV titles at Tioga, but it was my first as head coach,” said Evanek, who was part of five Section IV football titles and two baseball tiles as an assistant coach. “It was good stuff.”
The Tigers will graduate four seniors, and Evanek said they will be tough to replace.
“It’s a great group of seniors. John (Worthing), Pierce (Hendershot, Derrick (Barto), and Christian (Weaver) have been great leaders this year. They’ve been great examples for my younger guys.
“We’re going to miss them,” said Evanek.
Hendershot graduates with three Section IV titles under his belt in a 4 1/2-year varsity career. He’s also No. 2 on the all-time hit list, trailing only his brother Parker, who is currently playing at Penn State.
“It’s been an honor to play here,” said Hendershot. I’ve had some great coaches — coach (Bob) Seymour, coach (Kevin) Evanek, and coach (Nick) Aiello. They are some of the best coaches I’ve ever had.
“I’m going to miss it here, but I’m on to bigger and better things,” he added.
(CLICK HERE TO SEE 12 MORE PHOTOS.)
IN PHOTO 1: Tioga senior Pierce Hendershot launches a drive over the left-field fence in the bottom of the sixth inning. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
Print Friendly Version