BY JOHN THEALL Sports writer
WE DID IT! — South Lewis baseball players storm the field and surround starting pitcher Josh Stoffle following Thursday’s 5-0 victory over Fabius-Pompey in the Section III Class C Championship game at Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse. (Sentinel photo by Makenzi Enos)
DELIVERING A GEM — South Lewis senior pitcher Josh Stoffle throws a pitch to a Fabius-Pompey batter during the Section III Class C title game on Thursday at Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse. Stoffle tossed a three-hit shutout as the Falcons advanced to the state playoffs with a 5-0 win. (Sentinel photo by Makenzi Enos)
BEATING OUT THE PLAY — Fabius-Pompey pitcher Josh Stvan, right, tries to pick up the ball while South Lewis baserunner Dominick Ventura races to the bag as first baseman Matt Perry awaits the throw during Thursday’s Section III Class C title game at Alliance Bank Stadium. Ventura was safe on the play and later scored a run, and South Lewis went on to claim a 5-0 victory. (Sentinel photo by Makenzi Enos)
SYRACUSE — South Lewis senior Josh Stoffle said it was the best game that he has ever pitched in his high school baseball career.
Luckily for the Falcons, it came at the most opportune time.
The senior right-hander hurled a three-hit shutout and finished with four strikeouts, two walks, and one hit batsman while the Falcons’ offense produced some timely hitting and took advantage of three costly Fabius-Pompey errors during a 5-0 victory in the Section III Class C championship game on Thursday at Alliance Bank Stadium.
It was also a bit of redemption for the Falcons as they avenged a heart-breaking loss to Fabius-Pompey in the 2002 Class C sectional final. South Lewis won the Class C-1 title that year in its last sectional championship season.
South Lewis, which won the Class C-1 crown earlier this week, now heads into the state tournament with a 20-2 overall record and will face the Section IV winner on Tuesday at DeLutis Field starting at 4:30 p.m. They play the winner of the Section IV final between Lansing (22-0) and Thomas Edison (20-2).
Stoffle didn’t allow a hit until Matt Perry’s clean single back up the middle to start the fifth inning. He then went unscathed until he gave up a walk and two singles with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, before getting No. 8 hitter Dan Gallagher to pop out to shortstop Jason Martin and then retired Lucas Cognetti on a fielder’s choice groundout to second base.
Stoffle induced 11 popouts and six groundouts behind a stellar Falcons’ defense that didn’t commit an error.
"This is probably one of my best games, in my career really," Stoffle said. "My fastball was on, my curveball was breaking good, and I threw my changeup, which was working all right. I felt great all day, I had no problems out there."
As for his nerves on the mound with the bases loaded in the seventh?
"I was just concerned with throwing strikes and getting them out. I just pitched and wanted to get the game done and head to states," he said.
Shortstop Jason Martin made several dazzling plays while manning the middle of the infield, and right fielder Dominick Ventura made a few sparkling plays in the outfield, while the rest of the team was solid behind Stoffle.
"Defense did really good today. Best I’ve ever seen them play, I couldn’t ask anymore from them, they played great. My hats off to them, they won it," said Stoffle.
Second-year South Lewis coach Chad Brown agreed that his team’s defense came up big.
"Today was by far the most solid game that we played all year. Defense has been our weakness all year, but today they came focused and they knew what they had to do. This was the best I’ve ever seen them play on defense," said Brown, who is 28-13 overall in his short time at South Lewis. "I’ve been waiting for a game like that. Ever since day one I said, I would hate to see how could we’d play if we could hit it, field it, and pitch it, and we did all of that today. We’ve been known to kick it around a little bit. But when we came focused like today, we can be awfully tough," he added.
The Falcons scored all their runs without an extra base hit. Lead off hitter Shawn Loomis had an RBI single and scored twice, as teammates Elliot Martin, Jason Martin, and Cody Capron all had RBI singles.
South Lewis was also very active on the base paths. They ran early and often, going 4-for-6 in stolen base attempts.
Capron, Dominick Ventura, Hunter Chruscicki also scored runs for the victors. Luke Kelly had two hits for the Falcons.
Fabius-Pompey, which is the two-time defending Class C-2 champion, ended its season at 15-3 overall.
Starter Ben Rotondo allowed two runs off one hit and one walk in two plus innings of work before getting lifted at the start of the third inning after allowing a lead off walk to Capron, who later stole second base, and then Loomis reached base on an error in the infield bringing Capron around to put the Falcons ahead, 2-0.
Rotondo was relieved by left-hander Matt Perry, who went the next 2 1/3 innings and allowed two runs off six hits, and Josh Stvan tossed the final 2 2/3 innings and gave up one run off one hit.
South Lewis scored a pair of runs in the third and fourth innings and then added an insurance run in the sixth after Chruscicki reached on an error, advanced to second off another error by the pitcher on a pick-off attempt, and then moved to third on a passed ball before Capron drove him in with an RBI infield single that ricocheted off pitcher Stvan’s foot and Capron beat out the throw to the bag.
Capron started the third inning off with a lead off walk, stole second, and then Loomis knocked him in as Fabius-Pompey had an error in the field to lead to the Falcons’ first run. Elliot Martin then drove in Loomis two batters later over a diving Mike Rotondo’s head at short stop and quickly went ahead, 2-0.
South Lewis would tack on two more runs in the next inning as Loomis — on the first pitch swinging — connected with an RBI single to plate Ventura, and then Jason Martin followed that up with an RBI single back up the middle of his own.
"We hit the ball when we needed to," said Brown. "We put the ball in play, we put guys on, and we work the bases. We’re extremely aggressive on the base paths and that at times can really bite you, and at times it can take another team out of a game. That’s what we did here today."