BINGHAMTON – There aren’t too many things that Westfield’s Nolan Hunt can’t do on the mound.
Strikeouts are plentiful. No-hitters are common. Dominance is usually the story. But, there’s one thing the Canisius-bound senior can’t do: start two games in a four-hour period.
After Hunt tossed a one-hit, 11-strikeout shutout in a 3-0 win over Oriskany (III) in the semifinals to send the Wolverines to the Class D state championship, Westfield just didn’t have have enough pitching behind him. It suffered an 8-5 loss to Smithtown Christian (Section II) on Saturday at MacArthur Park in Binghamton.
Westfield was the only Section VI team to advance through the semifinals as Orchard Park fell to Saratoga (II), 6-5, in Class AA and Hamburg lost to Queensbury (II), 7-1, in Class A.
“I know for a fact we play better with Nolan pitching,” Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach said. “There is a confidence there that isn’t there when he’s not pitching. Our pitching just didn’t do it today. ... Emotionally and physically, I think we ran out of gas.”
Kaltenback said it was a “clear-cut” decision to start Hunt in the semis and give his team the best chance to get to the title game.
Smithtown won its second straight state championship and jumped on Westfield early, scoring three runs in each of the first two innings and led, 8-1, through four innings. Westfield started to chip away with a pair of runs in the fifth inning, but missed an opportunity to do more damage as it left the bases loaded.
After three quiet innings, Hunt made things interesting with a monster, two-run home run that sailed into the trees in right field and cut Smithtown’s lead to 8-5.
That’s all Westfield could muster, popping out to end the game. But Kaltenback said Hunt’s two-run blast was the perfect ending to a remarkable high school career.
“It’s a storybook ending for Hunt,” Kaltenbach said. “He’s gotta go down as probably the best player we’ve ever had and we’ve had some great players. ... It’s a fitting way to end an unbelievable career.”
Westfield finished the season 22-3 and won its first sectional title in 28 years.
“When we look back on this, I mean, we finished second in the state,” Kaltenbach said. “That’s something to be damn proud of.”
Orchard Park was one out away from advancing to the AA final, but a late Saratoga rally spoiled the Quakers’ hopes and sent the game into extra innings.
Orchard Park had a chance to end the game on a double play, but Brandon Nicholson’s throw to first base sailed high and wide to extend the inning. Orchard Park pitcher Jacob Lewis issued a couple of walks and later in the inning, Saratago’s Jake Herman tied the game at 5-5 with a two-run double.
“That was tough, that extended the inning, I thought,” Orchard Park coach Jim Gibson said of the failed double play. “Then the kid” Herman “came up with a big hit and that was it.”
Saratoga broke the tie game on an infield single with two outs in the ninth. Orchard Park went down in order in the bottom half to end it.
“I just want them to be proud of what they’ve accomplished this year,” Gibson said. “I told them we were 40-5 now in the last two years. That’s not too bad.”
Hamburg sent ace Cam Ringo to the mound, but he couldn’t push the Bulldogs any farther as they lost, 7-1 to Queensbury.
“The game could have went either way,” Hamburg coach Steve Chaffee. “Baseball is a funny game; I thought we squared up on more balls than they did. Everytime we squared up on ball, it was right at somebody. We had a lot lineouts and hard outs.”
Hamburg trailed, 3-1, for most of the game before Queensbury scored four runs in the sixth inning.