By Frank Rizzo
LAKE KATRINE June 5, 2001 Friday afternoons Section IX Class C baseball championship game proved that guts, determination, and even a kind of heroism arent always rewarded.
Fallsburg hurler Darren Kenney did his best on one days rest, yielding just three hits, but defensive breakdowns cost him as the Comets lost the title game to two-time defending champs Pine Plains, 7-0 at Gruner Field in Lake Katrine.
It was Fallsburgs first appearance at Gruner since 1993, when the Comets lost the Class D championship to Jeff-Youngsville.
[Kenney] lived up to our scouting report, said Pine Plains coach Phil Amelio. A very good pitcher, a gutsy kid. I would love to have him on my team.
Amelio added: Unfortunately for Fallsburg, those errors killed them. If not for [the errors], it would have been a 2-0 game. Thats been our m.o. this season, to capitalize on the other teams mistakes.
The Comets committed eight miscues, leading to six unearned runs.
Ominously, Kenney began the first inning with 28 pitches (eventually hurling 111 in six innings), hitting a batter and walking two including a walk with the bases loaded which led to the first Pine Plains run.
After that, Kenney did not issue a free pass but, as noted, became undone by his defense.
Pine Plains came into the game with a formidable resume: two straight sectionals titles and three in four years (one crown was copped in Section I), and the 2001 Mid-Hudson Athletic League (MHAL) title.
Rob Blass, who earned the win on Friday, had blanked Marlboro 7-0 in the MHAL championship game. Marlboro had knocked off three-time defending Class B champion Rondout Valley in the MHAL tourney.
We have big game experience, said Amelio, whose team lost in the state semifinals a year ago. When you play at the states, [sectional games] are not as big.
Kenney led off the game with a single against Blass, but then inexplicably got doubled off when Mike Gilberg popped out to first. Joe Calvello followed with a single but then Blass fanned Mike Hernandez, who chased a low pitch.
[Blass] uses a cut fastball its not a curve and its very difficult to hit, Amelio explained.
Rafi Fine blooped a single to center and Austin Pantel drew a walk to start the second, but were unable to advance.
In the sixth, Gilberg singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Hernandez grounded out, sending Gilberg to third with Fallsburgs best chance to score. But Blass got Fine out on strikes to preserve his shutout.
Amelio was awed by his teams pitching in the postseason.
In 28 innings weve given up just three runs, and two earned, he said.
Kenney said he preferred the underdogs role coming in.
This is a surprise, we didnt expect to be here. Things did not go our way and we didnt have our A game today, said the senior hurler. We had a great season, and have nothing to hang our heads about.
One observer who knows a thing or two about pitching was impressed by Kenneys outing.
The kid was incredible, raved Fallsburg assistant coach Brian Golden, a former pitching prospect in the Saint Louis Cardinals organization. He gave up three hits on one days rest against a good team. Another day we would have won this game. You certainly cant point the finger [for the loss] at DK.
The Comets may have raised a few eyebrows by their cavorting after the loss, including giving head coach Brett Cancredi the traditional Gatorade Shower reserved for winners.
They are a great bunch of guys, Cancredi said. We didnt play too well but we had fun. Thats what its all about getting here. It was a good experience for them.
Cancredi was stumped by his teams defensive breakdown, ascribing it to nervousness.
My philosophy of coaching is to stress defense, Cancredi said. When the defense is solid, it makes hitting easier.
Fallsburgs season is not quite over. Yesterday, the Comets played Chester to finish out the OCIAA Division IV schedule. Results were not available.
If Fallsburg wins, it will play Sullivan West/Jeff-Youngsville today at 4 p.m. (tentative time) at Monticello High School to determine the Division IV title.