By Rob Potter
LIBERTY June 6, 2006 Three days after reaching second base, Chapel Field baseball player Zac Menendez finally crossed home plate.
Last Thursday afternoon, top-seeded Chapel Field and second-seeded Eldred met in the Section IX Class D championship game at Baxter Stadium in Mountaindale. The game was originally scheduled to be played the day before, but the threat of bad weather forced section officials to postpone the contest until Thursday afternoon.
After holding Eldred scoreless in the top of the first on Thursday at Baxter Stadium, the Lions came to bat in the bottom of the frame. The first hitter was Menendez, who reached base with a single. Menendez moved to second base when the next batter, Jon Canazon, grounded out.
As Menendez stood on second and teammate Daryl Gros faced a 2-2 count in the batters box, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and a few seconds later the skies opened up. Sheets of rain descended upon the field as the umpires, coaches and players took cover in the two dugouts.
The umpires soon made the decision to suspend the game and continue it on Friday afternoon. But after it rained Thursday night and Friday, officials decided to postpone the game until Saturday and move the location of the contest to the Liberty High School baseball field.
But inclement weather on Saturday caused the title tilt to be delayed yet again.
Although the skies above the Liberty diamond were filled with gray clouds Sunday afternoon and a light drizzle fell from those clouds a couple of times, the Lions and Yellowjackets were able to finally finish what they had started on Thursday.
Gros promptly ripped a single down the third base line, which allowed Menendez to score the games first run.
Chapel Field (16-5) kept adding to that 1-0 lead as the game progressed. Two hours later, the Lions claimed the Class D championship with a 10-1 victory.
The Lions will face Westchester County champion Solomon Schechter today in a opening-round Class D state tournament game. The contest is set to begin at 4 p.m. at SUNY New Paltz.
Chapel Field took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Menendez led off the frame with a walk and stole second base. Menendez scored when Canazon singled to right field.
In the bottom of the fourth, Chapel Field added to its advantage. With one out and two runners on base, Jason Aguirre smacked a single to right field. Mark Shaper scored easily on the base hit and Joe Maury touched home plate after a collision with Eldred catcher Tyler King.
Moments later, Aguirre, who had advanced to third base thanks to a single by Menendez, scored on a passed ball. Aguirre's run gave the Lions a 5-0 lead.
Menendez crossed home plate when Canazon beat out a ground ball to shortstop.
The next batter, Gros, flied out to left field. But the ball was hit far enough for Canazon, who had stolen second base and third base, to run home and give Chapel Field a 7-0 cushion.
Eldred (5-9) got on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth. With one out, Walter Kreidell walked and Nick Simonelli was hit by a pitch. After a strikeout, Nick McCormick stepped up to the plate and smacked a solid single back up the middle. Kreidell scored on the hit, cutting the Lions lead to 7-1.
But Gros, the Chapel Field pitcher, ended the Yellowjackets rally by getting another strikeout.
Chapel Field added three more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Gros helped his own cause with an RBI single and then scored when Matt Dunn doubled to deep center field. Dunn stole third and recorded the final run of the afternoon when he crossed the plate on a groundout by Joe Schlegel.
Were peaking right now, Chapel Field Coach Joe Canazon said. Early in the year, we were playing well but then there was a week when we had a couple of injuries and didnt play well. But then we got back on track and we seem to be on a roll now.
We had great pitching and great hitting today, Canazon added.
The Lions leader has a great deal of respect for the Yellowjackets.
Eldred is a very good team and Mike Prunka is an excellent pitcher, Canazon said. We were able to avoid hitting fly balls off Prunka today. That was the key we hit grounders and line drives.
Eldred Coach Frank Kean didnt believe that the repeated postponements had any effect on the games outcome.
They had to deal with same conditions that we did, Kean said of the Chapel Field players.
The veteran coach noted that it was the Lions performance on the field that was the difference in the contest.
Theres an old baseball adage about hitting them where they aint, Kean commented. That is exactly what Chapel Field did, they hit it away from our fielders. They hit better than we did, pitched better and played better defense. They just played very well.
Eldred will lose eight seniors to graduation later this month. Kean said he will definitely miss those players, some of whom began competing on the varsity level as eighth-graders. While disappointed that those seniors fell short of winning the Section IX title, Kean said that those eight players improved over the years and he was happy they had the opportunity to play in a title game.
The eight graduating Yellowjackets are: George Fountain, Patrick Kean, King, Kreidell, Prunka, Jacob Smith, Tony Van Zanten and J.T. Vogt.