Corning made a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and went unbeaten at the Mingo Bay Baseball Classic. The Hawks have been perhaps even better back home.
Corning completed an unbeaten week with an 8-3 victory over Elmira on Saturday afternoon at Corning West High School. With several major league scouts in attendance to watch him and Elmira’s Zach Nierstedt, Hawks senior center fielder Zachary Sullivan had two of his team’s 13 hits and drove in four runs.
Junior left fielder Greg Speroni went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two runs before aggravating a shoulder injury originally suffered during diving season when he dove into first base for an infield hit.
Eight players had hits for the Hawks, who ran their record to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference. Leadoff hitter Ryan Walker contributed two hits, two runs and an RBI, and Derek Ayers had two hits and an RBI.
“We have kids off the bench coming up and getting hits that we need, so everybody’s coming alive right now,” Sullivan said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Corning pitchers Nick Westgate and Chris McKibben combined to slow down Elmira’s powerful lineup, scattering seven hits. Tyler Lynch hit a two-run homer for the Express (6-3, 4-1), Nierstedt went 3-for-4 and Justin Judson had two hits.
“When you put the ball in play like (Corning) did today, they’re going to score some runs,” Express coach Jason Manwaring said. “But overall I thought it was a very well-played game by both teams.”
Afterward Sullivan and Nierstedt had the field to themselves as they batted in front of as many as eight or nine major league scouts, according to Corning coach John Knapp. Sullivan has committed to Division I Stony Brook and Nierstedt, the Express’ shortstop, has committed to Georgia Highlands College in Rome, Ga. Both could end up in the minor leagues though, depending on what happens in the June draft.
The coaches moved back the start time from 1 to 3 p.m. to accommodate the scouts. As it turned out, rain shortly before 3 caused the game to start an hour late.
“Anytime you get an opportunity where you’ve got two possible draft prospects in our area going against each other, and they’re good friends, you do what you’ve got to do as a coach to move that game,” Knapp said.
Sullivan said he has grown accustomed to playing in front of scouts since competing in last summer’s New Balance Area Code Baseball Games and East Coast Pro Showcase.
“During the summer it was a little hard to get used to that,” he said. “Now it’s just like I’m going to go out and play the game. I’m going to worry about my team first.”
He said the Hawks’ first season goal is to dethrone Horseheads as STAC West champion. Corning hosts the Blue Raiders at 4:30 p.m. Monday and a lot of baseball remains, but there has been much to like for the Hawks so far. Corning outscored its opponents 38-7 this past week, with the other victories coming against Ithaca, Vestal and Binghamton.
The trip to Myrtle Beach, which followed a 5-0 loss at Union-Endicott to start the season, paid dividends both on and off the baseball diamond.
“The nice thing about the trip is we got four great games in,” Knapp said. “But the players were able to be with each other on the road and really develop that family unity living on the road, staying in the resort we stayed in, eating together, going to team meetings together.”
The depth of the roster came into play again Saturday, with boys coming off the bench to contribute. Sullivan said Corning has had a lot of different lineups and they have all worked.
“No matter what the lineup is everybody contributes, everybody plays and everybody supports each other,” he said.
Calvin Blish’s sacrifice fly gave Elmira a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the Hawks responded with a run in the bottom of the frame when Sullivan singled home Speroni, who doubled with one out.
Corning scored four runs in the third inning, including a two-run single from Sullivan. Lynch blasted a shot to center field in the fourth that was initially called a ground-rule double before the umpires ruled it cleared the fence for a two-run homer that made it a 5-3 game. The Hawks tacked on three runs in the sixth.
“That Elmira team is a well-coached team, a great program,” Knapp said. “They’ve got hitters one through nine, too. They hit the ball. If you’re watching the game, there weren’t many strikeouts. They hit the ball right at us and that’s baseball. But they’re a great team and they’re a force to be reckoned with.”
Said Manwaring: “It’s an open race. Obviously, they beat us head-to-head. We’ve just got to compete and get better.”