Rob Potter | Democrat
As Chad Rosario (22) and other teammates look on, Livingston Manor’s Mike Mills holds the Class D regional championship plaque moments after the Wildcats defeated Section XI champion Smithtown Christian Academy, 5-3, in Tuesday afternoon’s state quarterfinal baseball game in Pine Bush. Mills, a junior right-handed pitcher, earned the complete game victory.
Manor tops Smithtown Christian, 5-3, in 'D' baseball state quarterfinal
By Rob Potter
PINE BUSH After a one year absence, the Livingston Manor Wildcats are returning to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Class D baseball semifinals.
Section IX champion Manor defeated the Section XI champion Smithtown Christian Academy Knights, 5-3, on Tuesday afternoon in a Class D quarterfinal game at Mataraza Field in Pine Bush.
At 10 a.m. tomorrow, Manor will play a semifinal game against Section V champion Lyndonville (18-3) at Johnson City High School. If the Wildcats win, they will play at 4 p.m. for the state championship.
Leading the Wildcats to victory over the Knights was junior pitcher Mike Mills, who had seven strikeouts in earning the complete-game win.
Mills was also 1 for 2 at the plate. After Smithtown Christian took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI double by Timmy Gorton, Mills hit a sacrifice fly to score Kenny Fisk with the tying run in the bottom of the first.
The score remained 1-1 until the bottom of the third. With Dillon Taggart on third base and Fisk on second base, Mills singled to left field. Taggart and Fisk both scored on the hit to give the Wildcats a 3-1 advantage.
Manor (11-8) added two runs in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Trever Taggart singled and proceeded to steal second base. Joe Fredenburg then ripped a triple to deep left center field, allowing Taggart to cross the plate.
After Dylan Prince relieved starter Kyle Gorton for the Knights, Fredenburg scored on a wild pitch.
Smithtown Christian (9-10) answered with a run in the top of the fifth. Prince led off with a double and, after an out was recorded, scored on a single by Gorton.
Mills induced another fly ball for the second out of the inning. Seth Connell then walked to give the Knights two base runners.
But Mills struck out the next batter to end the inning.
Smithtown Christian tried to rally in the top of the seventh. Dominic Damon reached base with a one-out single. Gorton then belted a double to bring Damon in to score and cut the Manor lead to two runs.
But Mills struck out the next two batters to end the game.
Following the game, Smithtown Christian Coach Craig Gorton, Manor Coach Jeff Loeffler and Mills all noted that one of the key moments of the game occurred in the top of the second inning with the score still even at 1-1.
With Connell and Tim Steffins already on base, Jeremy Mathai narrowly beat a throw to first to give the Knights a runner on every base and a chance to take the lead.
When the next batter, Manny Roman, hit a grounder back to the mound, Mills quickly fielded the ball and threw it to catcher Dillon Taggart, who stepped on home plate for the first out of the inning. Taggart then threw the ball to first baseman Brandon Smith to complete the double play.
Mills then got a groundout to end the inning.
“That was huge,” Loeffler said of the double play. “Mike pitched a heck of a game. That 1-2-3 double play got us pumped up. He came out and to the key hit for us in the bottom of the third.”
“We played a great defensive game,” Loeffler added.
“The play really changed the momentum of the game,” Smithtown Christian Coach Craig Gorton said. “We could have taken the lead and we had the top of order coming up. We just didn’t get the timely hit when we needed it.”
Gorton noted that Mills pitched very well.
The Knights’ leader also praised Timmy Gorton, a freshman catcher.
“He had all three RBIs for us today and went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and a single,” Craig Gorton said.
As the only Class D team on Long Island which plays baseball, Smithtown Christian played against Class B and C schools during the regular season. With no Class D team in Section I as well, the Knights received a bye into Tuesday’s quarterfinal game.
After celebrating with his teammates and holding the regional championship plaque for a couple of moments, Mills talked about what winning the game meant to him and his teammates.
“It feels good, it’s overwhelming right now,” said Mills, whose uncle John David Mills, passed away on May 22.
Several of Mills’ family members were at the game, as well as family members of all of the other Wildcats. Naturally, they were all looking forward to traveling to Johnson City to see their team play at least one more game this season.
“It’s been our goal since day one of this season to be playing on June 11,” Mike Mills said. “We were at the state semifinals two years ago. Losing last year before getting back there really gave us the motivation for this season.”