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STAC BASEBALL: OWEGO KNOCKS OFF HORSEHEADS IN CONFERENCE SEMI (2024-05-11)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
ENDWELL — Strong pitching, solid defense and timely hitting — all are key elements in building a championship baseball team. Owego combined those aspects to knock off powerful Horseheads, 5-1, in the STAC

“Huge win, especially against a team like Horseheads, very well-coached, great ball club,” said coach Nick Wegmann. “We did all the little things right today. Conlan (Taylor) threw the pill outstanding. We played defense, we got timely hits. We played a complete game today, so it was good for us.”

“Taylor held the Blue Raiders’ offense in check, Evan English delivered a two-run single in the third inning to give the River Hawks the lead and the defense played errorless ball to end Horseheads’ 14-game winning streak.

With his team down, 1-0, English blasted a two-out line drive over the third baseman’s head, scoring Talan Schumacher, who had singled, and Joseph Palladino, who had drawn a base on balls.

“I was wanting to see how they would react going down early and they did a great job,” Wegmann said. “Our bats all day were awesome. Evan came through in a big spot and then in the top of the seventh guys did their job getting bunts down, making them play defense, and we were able to get on base and tack on a couple more.”

Horseheads scored its run with one away, Taylor hit Trevor Reidy, but he was thrown out by Ben Rollison while attempting to steal second.

The next two batters, Devin Sullivan and Hunter Matkosky, delivered back-to-back singles to plate a run with Sullivan scoring from second following a stolen base. Taylor struck out the next batter to avoid further damage in the only inning in which he surrendered consecutive hits.

Taylor would give up a leadoff single in the fourth and issue a one-out walk to Sullivan, who Rollison threw out trying to steal second.

Taylor gave up a one-out walk in the fifth, but retired the next two batters on ground balls back to himself. In the sixth, the Raiders connected for a pair of singles, but Owego got an out on a sacrifice bunt back to Taylor and two pop-ups to first baseman Connor Kotski.

The River Hawks put on a bunting display in the seventh to tack on a trio of insurance runs.

Zach Beyer led off with a bunt single to the pitch, Matt Higgins laid down a bunt which resulted in an error by the third baseman, and Schumacher bunted safely to the pitch to load the bases.

Palladino walked to score a run, then Rollison drilled a ground ball up the middle to plate two more for a 5-1 advantage.

“It's huge and we've been on the other side of that where it's kind of, I don't know if demoralizing is the right word, but when a guy lays a bunt down and you don't get an out out of it, it's kind of tough to come back from,” Wegmann said. “So, really proud of the guys for the way they handled themselves in that situation, just doing their job, getting it down and making them play defense.”

The bunt barrage appeared to rattle Horseheads starter Micah Hays, who had retired nine of 11 batters from the third through the sixth innings. Andrew Wood relieved him and faced four batters, giving up one hit

Meanwhile, Taylor retired the side in the seventh on ground balls to third baseman Elijah Lewis, second baseman Schumacher and first baseman Kotski.

With the win, Taylor improved to 5-0 on the season. He struck out four, scattered six hits, walked two and hit one batter.

Schumacher went 2-for-3 with two runs to lead Owego at the plate. Rollison and English added one hit and two RBI apiece, Beyer had a hit and a run, Palladino contributed a hit and an RBI; Taylor and Lewis chipped in with one hit each, and Higgins tacked on a run.

The River Hawks (16-2) face Oneonta (16-0) in the championship game Monday at 5 p.m. at Conlon Field in Binghamton. The Yellowjackets rallied late to defeat Owego, 5-4, during the regular season.

Wegmann said he didn’t have a preference whether Owego played Oneonta or Vestal for the championship (both beat the River Hawks), but it will be Oneonta.

Oneonta 5, Vestal 1
Bruce Mistler belted a walk-off grand slam to lift Oneonta to an 8-inning victory over Vestal in the other semi.

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IN PHOTO 1: Owego’s Talan Schumacher applies the tag. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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