NEWARK – After winning the Section VI baseball championship two years ago, Lancaster got crushed by Victor in the Far West Regional, 15-1.
If Lancaster was searching for redemption in Saturday’s rematch, it never came.
Victor’s offense was again too hot to handle, exploding for five runs in a momentum-swinging fourth inning that was the difference in the Blue Devils’ 8-3 win at Colburn Park.
Lancaster’s season ended at 18-5 while Victor – which has won four straight Section V Class AA titles – advanced to next weekend’s state championships at Maine-Endwell High School.
“Both teams played a really good game and our pitcher just got a little bit tired in one inning and we had to make a change. That inning killed us right there,” Lancaster coach Mark Dalfonso said.
It was the bottom of the Blue Devils’ order that started the rally in the fourth inning. After their sixth, seventh and eighth hitters all reached base,
Lancaster’s Ryan Stekl walked the ninth-place hitter, Pete Sobraske, to bring in the first run.
Stekl’s pitch count neared triple digits as Victor’s next three hitters all drove in runs, and he was replaced before he could get out of the inning.
“It was just location. I wasn’t finding my fastball,” Stekl said. “My off-speed pitches were on, but if you’re not throwing a strike with your fastball, you’re not going to be successful. I just didn’t have it in the fourth with my location. That was my downfall.”
Although Lancaster’s starting pitcher from two years ago, Joe Preziuso, is still on the team, Dalfonso was confident starting Stekl Saturday.
“We had an extensive scouting report on these guys and they tee off on fastballs,” Dalfonso said. “Stekl’s the best off-speed and change-up pitcher that we have, so that’s what we went with.”
That was fine with Preziuso.
“I’d give it to Stekl any day,” he said. “I think he’s a better pitcher than me. I’d rather play shortstop anyway.”
While the end result was the same, early on it looked like it might have been Lancaster’s day. Preziuso opened the game with a single and scored from third two batters later when Stekl hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield.
In the third, Lancaster had first and second with no one out but stranded the runners when the next three hitters all flew out.
In the top of the fourth, Lancaster increased its lead to 3-0 after LG Castillo and JD Andreessen led off the inning with doubles and Griffin O’Brien put down a nice squeeze bunt. However, a double play ended the inning.
Even in the fifth, after Victor had taken the lead, Lancaster put runners on first and second but couldn’t bring them around.
“Any time a team beats you 15-1, you want to get back at them,” Preziuso said. “We put them on the ropes, we just couldn’t finish it off.”