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STAC BASEBALL: OWEGO ENDS DROUGHT, SHUTS OUT ONEONTA FOR FIRST TITLE SINCE 1999 (2024-05-13)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO — Owego put together what was arguably its best overall performance of the season to shut out previously unbeaten Oneonta, 8-0, and claim its first STAC baseball championship since 1999 Monday.

“We've had games where we've swung it well and we pitched okay, and the games where we didn't swing it well and we pitched awesome, and finally it came together and came together at the right time for us,” Owego coach Nick Wegmann said.

It’s hard to believe that this is just the second STAC title for a program which has produced several talented players over the years.

“We were talking about it in the gym today while looking at the banner and said wouldn't it be nice to get ourselves another one,” said Wegmann. “That's a long time when you look at a lot of the great baseball players that have come out of Owego for a championship not to be had, but really happy for this crew to be the one to bring it back here.”

The River Hawks struck early, scoring the only run they would need in the bottom of the first inning. Ben Rollison and Conlan Taylor led off with walks, then Evan English would hit into aground out that would put both runners in scoring position. Elijah Lewis would ground out as well, plating Rollison.

Owego erupted for five second-inning runs, highlighted by a two-run home run from English. With one away, Matt Higgins and Talan Schumacher drew walks, then Joseph Palladino and Rollison singled with the latter bringing Higgins home.

With the River Hawks ahead, 2-0, Taylor crushed a fastball over the head of Yellowjacket center fielder Chase Jervis, but Jervis ran it down for an out. Schumacher and Palladino tagged up and scored on the play for a 4-0 advantage. English stepped to the plate and sent a fastball over the center field fence, scoring Rollison and himself to give the host a 6-0 cushion.

Dingers have been rare for the River Hawks, but there was no doubt what was going to happen when English connected with this one.

“We had one last year in our first round of sectionals, and that was the first one that I've seen here from us, and then finally to get another one,” Wegmann said. “That was a bomb by Evan. Conlan crushed his ball to center before that and then Evan comes up right after him, does the same thing, but he gets it over the fence, so really an impressive swing. We were facing a good arm, so they just battled, great at-bats and didn't give in.”

The Owego bats weren’t finished, however, tacking on two more runs in the third. With two away, Schumacher singled to center, Palladino drew a base on balls, then Rollison and Taylor smacked line drive RBI singles to make it an 8-0 ball game.

The River Hawks would manage just one hit the rest of the way, but the damage had been done, and pitching and defense was holding Oneonta in check.

“Winning STAC is awesome and I'm really, really proud of these boys, but they know that the real meat and potatoes is in the sectional tournament. Let them celebrate tonight. We'll take it all in and then get ready to go back to work.”

This win, along with the upset of Horseheads on Saturday, has to be a morale booster for the River Hawks.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” Wegmann said. “Whenever you play two awesome, well-coached, really fundamental great teams in a row like Horseheads and Oneonta, and you're able to come out with two wins it's a huge morale boost. I know the boys really see that and they're feeling pretty good right now, so I'm happy for them, but we’ve got a couple of obstacles in our way in the section that we haven't played before, so we’ve just got to see what comes of it.”

Lewis had put together a strong performance on the mound. He struck out three batters in a row in the first and second innings, gave up a single in the second and a double in the fifth.

The Yellowjackets put consecutive batters on base just twice, with back-to-back two-out walks in the third and seventh innings.

“He pitched awesome,” Wegmann said. “As long as he's getting ahead of guys and working ahead, he is outstanding. Gets himself in trouble when he gets behind and he knows it. He'll tell you the same thing, but for the most part today he did (work ahead).

“I just think it was a little fatigue and we didn't really want to let him go any longer knowing what we’ve got coming ahead next week, pitches-wise and why we got him. We talked to him about it and he's fine with it, so he understands, but an outstanding job by him.”

Lewis finished with eight strikeouts while scattering a half-dozen walks and two hits in 6 ⅔ innings. Kotski pitched to the final batter, recording a strikeout.

Rollison and Lewis both went 2-for-3 at the plate with Rollison scoring twice and driving in a pair of runs, and Lewis adding an RBI.

Taylor was 1-for-2 with three RBI and English was 1-for-3 with two RBI. Schumacher and Palladino both went 1-for-2 with two runs, and Higgins tacked on a run.

Rollison, Taylor and Lewis stole one base each, and Rollison threw out a runner attempting to steal second.

Owego (17-2) will host a Section IV Class A playoff game Friday.

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PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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