Koval’s Gem leads Haldane past Pierson 3-0; Game set for Saturday
Haldane celebrates its victory over Long Island champ Pierson. Photo / Stephen SchweikhartThe Haldane Blue Devils' magical post season run continued Wednesday as Ryan Koval pitched a complete game three-hit shutout and knocked in two runs to lead the Section 1 champs past Pierson 3-0. The Blue Devils advance to the state semifinals, and a date with either Ticonderoga or Voorheesville at 10 a.m. at Johnson City High School outside Binghamton. If the Blue Devils can grab a win, they will be in the championship game at 4 p.m.
After Koval retired the side in order in the top of the first, Haldane scratched a run across in the bottom of the frame. Matt Forlow drew a lead-off walk, and with one out, stole second. John Rotando’s single advanced Forlow to third, who scored on Koval’s two-out infield single. The score remained 1-0 until the third inning when the Blue Devils put together a two-out and nobody on rally. After Forlow and Drew Ford were retired, Rotando singled and Stephen Zalys was hit by a pitch. Koval then laced a single to score Rotando and extend the lead to 2-0.
With Koval pitching effectively, the lead seemed secure until the top of the
fiftCoach Tom Virgadamo raises the State Regional Champions Plaque after getting pied by his players. Photo / Stephen Schweikharth when the Whalers put together their only serious threat of the game. A lead-off bunt single, followed by an infield hit, put runners on first and second with no one out. Koval fielded a bouncer back to the mound and got the force at third for the inning’s first out. Then, a grounder to short was cleanly fielded by shortstop Matt Forlow, who flipped to Kenny Doxey for the force at second. Doxey’s throw to first was just a split second late, so with two outs, the Whalers had runners at first and third. Koval then dove to field a Pierson bunt and gun down the runner at first to end the threat.
The Blue Devils loaded the bases in both the fourth and fifth innings but could not pad their lead as Rotando grounded out to end the fourth and Dima Spinelli was the victim of a great defensive play by the Pierson middle infield, who took away a base hit up the middle and turned it into a double play.
Haldane would add an important insurance run in the sixth thanks to a stolen base and Whaler error. Andrew Balducci opened the inning with a hard single to left. Matt Forlow worked out a walk to advance Balducci to second. Drew Ford hit a soft liner just over the reach of the Whaler shortstop, but Balducci was forced at third when he had to hold up to see if the ball would be caught. A double steal would get the third run home when the throw the third was too late to get Forlow and the ball bounded into left field. Forlow easily scored to make it 3-0.
From there Koval closed the door, with the help of some solid defense. Justin Kauffman slick play on a bunt got the lead off hitter, and Dima Spinelli ran down a fly in shallow right for the second out. After a walk on close pitch, Koval fanned the final batter and set of another Blue Devil celebration. ”Dan (Kinnaird) got us here, and I just wanted to get us on the road to Binghamton” a modest Koval said after the win. Koval has been on the mound for some of the team’s biggest moments this year—no-hitting Pawling, closing out Tuckahoe in the sectional final in relief of Kinnaird and now pitching the Blue Devils to the season’s last weekend. Still, Koval was quick to acknowledge that he was not doing this alone. ”As long I’m with these guys, that’s all that matters. With our defense behind me I’m going to put the ball in play and let them make the plays. I know they’ll make them.”
The winning Haldane Blue Devils after Wednesday's victory; now it's onward to the state final four in baseball. Photo/Carol Balducci
It’s been 11 years since the Blue Devils were in the final four. In 2001, the Virgadamo brothers were players, not coaches. They were also there in 2000, coming up empty both times. Tom Virgadamo remembers both as if they happened yesterday. With shaving cream still drenching his face from this day’s victory celebration, Virgadamo was able to quickly rattle off the facts of those two appearances. ”In 2001, my senior year, we lost to Parrishville Hopkinton in the semi finals 2-1 in 9 innings. My Junior year we lost in the finals to Fabius-Pompey 5-3.” Now it’s a new set of players who will forge memories that will become a permanent part of their DNA - all while on history’s doorstep. ”No male sport at Haldane has ever won a state title,” Virgadamo continued. ”That’s ultimately our goal.”
Earlier story, from Tuesday evening:
One team's dream was extended, while the other's died as both of Haldane's nines saw state tournament action on Tuesday.
In Pleasantville, Haldane's baseball team rode the arm of Dan Kinnaird to a 7-0 win over Section 9 champ Tri-Valley, and a date in the state regional finals against Long Island champ Pierson/Bridgehampton. Meanwhile, the softball team's post season run ended in Nanuet at the hands of Tuxedo's Senior laden squad 13-7.
The Blue Devils broke open a tight 1-0 game with a six-run two-out fourth inning rally and cruised to the regional semi-final win at Pace University. As has been the case all season, Haldane used small ball and patience at the plate to fuel their big inning. The Blue Devils used six walks, and three singles to plate their six runs, the big hit coming when Ryan Koval drove in a pair with a base hit to right center. Matt Forlow and Dima Spinelli also had run scoring singles in the inning, while John Rotando and Stephen Zalys both drew bases-loaded walks to plate runs.
Starting pitcher Dan Kinnaird was in control from the outset, scattering five hits while striking out three. Kinnaird benefited from some spectacular defense as the Blue Devils turned three unconventional double plays. In the top of the second, Ryan Koval snared a liner to center and doubled up a napping Tri-Valley base runner at second. In the top of the fifth, with runners on first and second and one out, Matt Forlow made a spectacular diving catch of a liner that seemed destined for center field. Forlow then tossed to Ken Doxey to catch the stunned Tri-Valley runner, who had broken for third. Finally, in the sixth with a runner on second and two out, a single up the middle seemed to end Kinnaird's shutout bid. Ryan Koval quickly charged the ball and threw a laser to Andrew Balducci to gun down the Bear runner at the plate.
Ryan Schubert pitched an effective seventh inning in relief of Kinnaird, giving up only an infield single. Koval accounted for the Blue Devils other run, when he plated Stephen Zalys with an RBI ground out in the second. Zalys had hit a ground rule double to deep right to open the inning.
The Blue Devils next face Section 4's Pierson/Bridgehampton, who defeated East Rockaway 1-0 on Tuesday to win the Long Island title. The game will be played on Wednesday at 4pm at Manhattanville College.
Softball Team Season Ends in Regional Semi Finals
The day got off to a promising start when Sam Lisikatos and Alex Monteleone both singled to open the Blue Devils game against Section 9 champ Tuxedo. Two outs later, Melissa Tringali's base hit scored Lisikatos to give Haldane a 1-0 lead. The bottom of the frame though would not be as kind, as the Tornadoes immediately responded with a pair of runs to grab a 2-1 lead. Tuxedo would never look back and eventually grabbed a 13-7 win.
It could have been much worse for the Lady Blue Devils in the first inning if not for some fine defense from second baseman Missy Lisikatos and center fielder Kelsey Flaherty. Lisikatos made a diving catch up the middle for the inning's first out, while Flaherty ran down two flies in center to strand a pair of runners. But the Tuxedo lineup was just too potent. By the end of the third it was 8-1 as the entire, seasoned Tornadoes lineup proved to be tough outs. In all, Tuxedo started six Seniors (compared to the Blue Devils two).
EARLIER THIS WEEK: In play Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Devils baseball team used a 6-run, 4th inning to beat Section 9 champ Tri- Valley, 7-0. The Blue Devils head to the regional final Wednesday at Manhattanville against Pierson of Section 4. The softball team, meanwhile, lost 13-7 to hard-hitting Section 9 champ Tuxedo. The Blue Devils fell behind 8-1 early, and could not recover. Above, Ryan Koval (center, fist raised) amid the celebration after Haldane’s 7-4 championship win in the Sectional. Right, Haldane Girls Varsity Softball team, after their win.