Union-Endicott’s regular season went pretty much according to plan. Now, the Tigers will see if the post-season will as well.
U-E seeks its first Southern Tier Athletic Conference baseball title since 2004 when the league’s playoffs commence today at Maine-Endwell’s Gary Crooks Field.
Metro Division champion U-E (15-1) will oppose East Division winner Chenango Forks (9-9) in a 10 a.m. semifinal, followed by a semifinal contest pitting Central Division champion Seton Catholic Central (11-5) and West Division champion Corning (15-2) at 1. The winners will meet at 4 for the league title.
With many of its key players back from last year’s Section 4 Class AA title team, U-E figured to be in the STAC title mix this season. That has been the case, with seniors C.J. Krowiak, Joey Orlando, Nick Yesensky, Drew Hogan and Matt Eastman – all third year varsity players – delivering fine seasons.
“I think we’re playing pretty well,” U-E coach Tim Harkness said. “But I do think we need to tighten things up a little bit. Sometimes at this time of year, guys can start relaxing a little bit and we’re trying to make sure we’re staying at the level we think we can play at.”
One team that hasn’t been able to relax has been Forks. The Blue Devils were among four teams that were in a season-long logjam at the top of the East Division, finally capturing their first division title in 17 years when they won their final two games and Norwich dropped its season finale.
Seven of Forks’ nine losses this season have come by two runs or less.
“We know how to play in pressure situations,” Forks coach Mike Curtis said. “We didn’t always win those games but we had a lot of close games all season, having that experience will help us if we get in that position again.”
Forks, seeking its first STAC title, is led by third baseman Andrew Ziegenfus, who leads the team in nearly every significant offensive category, as well as outfielder/pitcher Nate Butler and outfielder/shortstop Chad Raychel. Pitcher Mike Bubniak is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA and will draw the start on the mound opposite Orlando in the semifinals.
In the second semifinal, Seton CC will look to improve upon last year when it lost to eventual champion Horseheads, 13-7, in the semifinals.
The Saints, state Class C champions last year, have been led offensively by Rob Olsen, Neal McCormick, David George, Mike Korchak and Tyler Krowiak. Korchak, George, Olsen, and Matt Ogozaly have anchored the pitching staff. Seton CC’s last STAC title came in 1984.
“A lot of my guys have been through (these types of games),” Seton CC coach Jim Miller said. “We’ve had good pitching and defense all year, I think we’re in good shape and our arms are healthy.”
The Saints will face a talented Corning team seeking its first STAC title. The Hawks are led by outfielder Zach Sullivan, who is batting .460 and figures to have his name called come June during Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
Other significant offensive players for Corning include shortstop Ryan Walker (.382), DH Nick Westgate (.348) and second baseman Jake Eighmey (.361). Left-hander Nate Grant (5-1, 1.18 ERA) is expected to start against Seton CC, and the Hawks also feature pitchers Chris McKibben (4-1, 2.38) and Derek Ayers (3-0, 1.27).