John McGinty stood staunch on the mound, methodically plowing through Albion's powerful order and bewildering batters; they struggled to figure out not how to win, but how to get a hit. Fortunately for the Purple Eagles, McGinty left the game in the sixth inning with severe wrist pain.
Unfortunately for them, he handed the ball off to a teammate he'd been playing with for nearly a decade.
AJ Jasek came in with Grand Island's season resting on the hope that he could get five outs, continue McGinty's dominance, and preserve a one-run lead. He did just that, leading the Vikings to a 2-1 win for the Class A Championship at Sal Maglie Stadium.
"We've been playing together since we were 9 and I had full confidence he'd get out of it," said McGinty. "I had full confidence he'd win this game."
When it seemed Grand Island ought to be rattled -- Albion's fans screamed and stomped frantically as the stadium rose to a state of hysteria; McGinty exited with the bases loaded -- confidence was the common sentiment in the Vikings' dugout. The veteran Vikings, who start nine seniors, boasted that confidence in Jasek.
"I have 100 percent faith in the kid," said Grand Island coach Dean Santorio. "He hasn't gotten the accolades overall, but he still has been great every time he's taken the mound. So me throwing him in there, I wasn't worried at all."
The Vikings (16-7) mobbed the field and formed a pile between the pitcher's mound and second base after recording the final out, a deep fly to center that stranded a runner on third.
In 2009, the last time Grand Island made it to the Far West Regionals, the Vikings' final record was 16-7 -- the same record they have now. They finished 10-4 in league play -- the same mark they tallied this year. They beat Albion in the Class A Championship, and did the same this year.
Albion, the Niagara-Orleans League champ, finished 20-3.
"[McGinty] was dominating us but we didn't give up," said Albion coach Bruce Blanchard. "We did show character. We could've folded a couple times when they had guys on base, but we made some plays. I'm real proud of them."
McGinty, Grand Island's unquestioned leader this year, was pitching on just two days rest and battling an elbow injury. However, the Purple Eagles didn't notch a hit off McGinty until a bang-bang play at first in the sixth inning. His wrist injury was unrelated to the previous ailment, but his status for the Vikings' next game is questionable.
"I'm obviously in pain, but I loved seeing my team win and everybody throw up their gloves," said McGinty, who will play at Division I Hartford next year.
The Vikings, who claimed the Niagara Frontier League Championship, will play the winner of the Section V Championship on Tuesday at 5 p.m. back at Sal Maglie Stadium. Rochester's representative will be determined on Saturday.