Wallkill wins in 11 innings in Class A baseball final

Wallkill sophomore pitcher John Winters (7) celebrates after recording the final out in a 3-2 win in 11 innings in the Section 9 Class A championship game at Cantine Field in Saugerties on May 28, 2016. (WILL MONTGOMERY/TIMES HERALD-RECORD)

SAUGERTIES — The player who delivered the biggest hit of Wallkill’s season wasn’t even on the team for its first practice.

Sophomore designated hitter Brad Betcher, a mid-season callup from the Wallkill jayvee, had an RBI single in the top of the 11th inning that lifted Wallkill to a 3-2 victory over Cornwall in the Section 9 Class A championship game.

“It was a stalemate there for a while where we weren’t able to score any runs but our pitching kept us in it,” Betcher said. “We buckled down and got some runners on base and I was blessed with the opportunity and I guess I kind of came through. It was a great job by every single person on this team.”

“I knew Brad was having a year,” said Wallkill senior starting pitcher Anthony Pacifico. “He got brought up from jayvee and none of us knew who he was, honestly. The kid is batting a solid .300. I knew he was going to come up clutch for us and he eventually did.”

Pacifico allowed two runs on three hits over nine innings, striking out nine. Sophomore John Winters entered in the 10th inning after Pacifico had thrown 124 pitches.

Winters allowed two baserunners in two innings, one on a single and another on an error, but he recorded all six of his outs with strikeouts to earn the win.

What was going through Winters’ mind in a huge spot in the playoffs?

“Honestly? Nothing,” he laughed. “I kept it cool and this was definitely my best outing of the year, for sure. I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes and luckily I did.”

Winters had started and pitched four innings to earn the win in Wallkill’s 12-4 Class A semifinal victory at No. 2 New Paltz on Wednesday.

Pacifico, a senior right-hander who has committed to Division II Mercy College, had an extra pitch which with to work. His changeup helped keep Cornwall hitters off-balance for the better part of the game.

“I knew I had to come out throwing strikes,” Pacifico said. “I had three pitches today instead of just my fastball and curveball. My changeup was working and I had a lot of people out on their front foot. And I had my defense behind me. Those guys are my family and I knew they’d have my back.”

Wallkill had at least one runner on base in every inning except the tenth. The Panthers stranded 15 runners over 11 innings, hit into two double plays and had one runner picked off at first base. Despite those scoring opportunities, the Wallkill hitters never quit.

“We all talked to each other and just kept picking each other up,” Pacifico said. “I wasn’t getting any hits but I knew I had to keep going out there and put zeroes on the board and my teammates would eventually pick me up. My heart was falling out of my chest but in the end it was all worth it.”

No. 3-seeded Wallkill (11-10) went over the .500 mark for the first time this season. The Panthers scored two runs in the third inning on RBI hits by Betcher and John Zinko. Zinko was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two intentional walks.

Wallkill began the season with five losses in its first six games. Other than senior Corey Scheibling at shortstop, head coach T.D. Mills mixed-and-matched his infield all season long. Mills also didn’t lean too heavily on Pacifico and Winters during the regular season – potentially costing the team a few wins along the way – in order to have them fresh for a game like this one.

“We figured out during the year what we could do and what we couldn’t do,” Mills said. “It was just an all-around team effort. That was awesome.”

The players bought into Mills’ tinkering. Their chemistry grew throughout the season. Wallkill showed up early to Cantine Field to get ready for what was supposed to be a 1 p.m. start. Excessive heat postponed the game to 7 p.m., so the Wallkill team went to watch X-Men: Apocalypse in Kingston to get out of the sun in the afternoon.

“Maybe it was the X-Men: Apocalypse movie,” Winters said. “That kept us cool. I definitely recommend watching that.”

“We came into sections and we just became ten times a better team,” Betcher said. “We clicked together and we’re just having fun out there.”

Starting pitcher Pete McGovern allowed two runs on nine hits over eight inings for No. 1 Cornwall (17-5). Jason Bailey pitched three innings in relief and took the loss.

Trent Tucker led off the top of the 11th with a single for Wallkill. He moved to second base on a groundout to shortstop. Scheibling flew out to center for the second out of the inning and Cornwall intentionally walked Zinko with first base open. Betcher followed with the go-ahead single.

Cornwall’s Matt Krafft singled to lead off the bottom of the first inning. He scored after stealing second, moving to third on an error and going home on a wild pitch. Tyler Trieste, who made a pair of tough catches in shallow center field to keep the game tied in the tenth inning, had an RBI single in the fifth.

Wallkill receives an opening round bye in the state tournament and plays the winner of an opening round game between the Section 4 and Section 1 champions at a site to be determined on June 4.

Reporter’s note: We ran into a time crunch with the late start, extra innings and our Saturday night deadline. Here’s what I would have written for the paper had I had more time.

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