Mustangs face state semifinal test Friday

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 12 June 2019 at 10:14 am

Photo by Cheryl Wertman -Anchoring the Medina lineup at the plate heading into Friday’s state semifinal is this group of six .300 plus hitters. From left are Chris Goyette, Brian Fry, Zach Fike, Nate Sherman, AJ Seefeldt and Joe Cecchini.

Two teams seeking their first ever berth in the state baseball championship game will collide Friday as Medina takes on Schuylerville in the state Class B semifinals at 2 p.m. at Broome County Community College near Binghamton.

The victor will face the winner of the 5 p.m. semi between defending champion Center Moriches and Susquehanna Valley in the championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Binghamton University.

“It will be a great experience,” said Medina Coach Jon Sherman.

Medina, which brings a school record 21-2 mark into its second ever appearance in the state semis, advanced by defeating LeRoy 10-2 in the Far West Regional. The Mustangs previous semifinal appearance was in 2003, a 9-1 loss to Carle Place.

Medina catcher Austin Mosher is flanked here by starting pitchers Chris Goyette, left, and Trevor Luthart.

Schuylerville, which is 17-7, is making its first ever appearance in the semis and its first in the state playoffs since 2005, advanced by blanking Ogdensburg 4-0 in the Capital District Regional.

Not surprisingly for two teams which have both rattled off six straight playoff victories to reach the Final Four, the Mustangs and Black Horses have plenty in common besides similar nicknames mainly steady pitching and defense and timely hitting.

The Black Horses pitching and defense has been particularly stingy in postseason play having given up a total of only 4 runs in six games while the offense has scored 53.

The 4-0 win over Ogdensburg well reflects that as steady defense backed the 4 hit shutout pitching of junior Alex Vallee who had just 1 strikeout. At the plate, the Black Horses were led by junior Ryan Yandow who had an RBI double in the third inning and a two-run single in the fifth and senior Paul Harshberger who had an RBI double in the fifth.

Prior to that, Schuylerville defeated Northeastern Clinton 11-1 in the sub regional after defeating Mechanicville 12-3 for the Section II Class B title. The Black Horses first three sectional games were shutout wins 9-0 over Cobleskill, 10-0 over Catskill and 7-0 over Coxsackie-Athens.

Matt Saj, left, is a starter in the outfield for the Mustangs while Xander Payne has seen action both on the mound and in the outfield.

“They do seem pretty similar to us,” said Sherman. “We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We have to stay disciplined at the plate and make the necessary adjustments the second time through the order, keep getting steady pitching and make the plays defensively. And defensively I don’t think there’s a better combination around up the middle then we have at shortstop and second base with Brian and AJ. They are both silky smooth and offensively they can really hit.”

Medina’s road to the Final four, which was capped off by last Saturday’s 10-2 Regional win over LeRoy, has also included consecutive Section VI Class B1 wins over CSAT (3-0), Newfane (6-0), Olean (12-1) and rival Albion (10-6) in the championship game followed by a 15-4 win over defending champion Roy-Hart in the overall Section VI Class B title contest.

Medina’s very youthful and versatile lineup has been led on the mound by the trio of junior Trevor Luthart (10 wins with 96 strikeouts in 68 innings), junior Chris Goyette (4 wins, 57 strikeouts in 34 innings) and freshman Zach Fike (4 wins, 51 strikeouts in 26 innings).

When not on the mound Luthart plays first base, Goyette second or third and Fike first.

At the plate, the Mustangs have been led by  sophomore shortstop/pitcher Brian Fry (.507 average with 31 RBI), sophomore second baseman/shortstop AJ Seefeldt (.480, 41 RBI), Goyette (.378, 31 RBI), junior centerfielder Nate Sherman (.319, 27 RBI), freshman third baseman/outfielder), Joe Cecchini (.317, 19 RBI) and Fike (.302, 27 RBI).

Sophomore Austin Mosher handles the catching chores and senior Matt Saj rounds out the outfield. Senior Rickie Pitts, sophomores Corey Saj and Tyler Chinn, freshman Xander Payne and eighth grader Aidan Paul have also seen time in the outfield. Payne and Paul have also seen time on the mound.

“We’re young but we’ve got good experience,” said Sherman. “These guys, especially our core group, have played a lot of baseball. They’ve played in a lot of national level tournaments and have faced a lot of top level teams.”

Medina’s appearance will make the eighth time a Niagara-Orleans League school has reached the Final Four. The Wilson team in 1983 has been the only one to date to claim a state crown.

The previous N-O appearances were as follows:

1982 – Class C-D – Wilson – defeated Draper 13-8 in semis; lost to Little Falls 12-5 in the finals

1983 – Class C-D – Wilson – defeated Mattituck 4-3 in the semifinals; defeated Rome Catholic 5-2 in the finals

1996 – Class C – Wilson – lost to Catskill 5-4

1999 – Class B – Albion – lost to Johnson City 9-1 in the semifinals

2003 – Class B – Medina – lost to Carle Place 9-1 in the semifinals

2004 – Class B – Newfane – defeated Skaneateles 7-1 in the semifinals; lost to Windsor 10-4 in the finals

2018 – Class B – Roy-Hart – lost to Seton Catholic 7-1 in the semifinals.