ENDWELL – A pair of big innings and a solid pitching performance from Mike Kosty was more than enough to give Vestal its first Southern Tier Athletic Conference baseball title since 2009.
Sean Lyons went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, Geno Arthur homered and drove in two runs and Kosty tossed a complete game as the Golden Bears denied Corning a championship repeat with an 8-3 victory Saturday evening at Maine-Endwell’s Gary Crooks Field.
Arthur, Mickey Mullins, Matt Benko, T.J. Wegmann all had two hits apiece for Vestal (11-5), which outlasted Oneonta, 3-2, in nine innings in the semifinals earlier Saturday before getting the bats going in the title game.
Vestal did most of its offensive damage in the third and fifth innings. Vestal scored four runs in the third inning and then tacked on another three in the fifth inning to take a 7-3 lead. Arthur’s solo homer in the seventh inning provided the game’s final run.
“That’s what these guys have done all season, we’re a big-inning team,” Vestal coach Tank Andersons said. “We look like a Little League team one inning then a major-league team the next, but these guys are capable of stringing hits together.”
After a scoreless first two innings, Vestal took a 4-0 lead in the third.
Andrew O’Hara walked to lead off the inning, and after getting sacrificed to second base, Mullins hit an RBI single to bring him in for a 1-0 Vestal lead.
Mullins would later score in the inning on a throwing error to make it 2-0. Benko and Wegmann followed with hits after Mullins’ run, and Lyons then delivered a soft two-out, two-run single to center make it 4-0.
Corning answered back in its half of the third inning with three runs— the big blow a two-out, two-run double by Danny Madden to deep right — to draw within 4-3. The Hawks, however, were unable to muster a significant rally after that.
Vestal, meanwhile, wasn’t done. Mullins singled to lead off the fifth inning, stole second and scored on Benko’s single down the third-base line. Wegmann followed with an infield single before Arthur delivered an RBI single to center to put Vestal up 6-3.
“There have times when our bats have been cold, but we’ve had some timely hitting lately,” Mullins said. “That (third inning) got our confidence up and we just kept it going.”
Kosty allowed nine hits, but only two of those came over the final four innings. His only significant jam after Corning’s three-run third inning came in the fifth inning, when the Hawks had runners on first and second with one out, but Kosty got out of trouble by getting Greg Speroni to fly out to center field before making a juggling catch of a liner up the middle by Madden.
“I threw strikes and my teammates did all the work for me,” Kosty said. “I was hitting my spots on the corners and getting groundballs.”
Ryan Walker had two hits to lead Corning (13-4). Starter Beech Wayland took the loss, giving up four runs in 22/3 innings before leaving after taking a liner off the hand. Corning coach Pete Graham said that Wayland only had some minor swelling and should be fine.
As for the outcome, Graham said his team had its fair share of offensive chances but just couldn’t capitalize on them.
“I tip my hat to Vestal, they straight up beat us,” Graham said. “It came down to when they had runners in scoring position they found a way to get them in. We had chances but they made some nice defensive plays.”
Lyons also had three hits in the semifinal victory over Oneonta, none bigger than his RBI double in the ninth inning that broke a 2-all tie. He also singled and scored a run earlier in the game in the second inning.
Joe Iacovelli pitched four shutout innings in relief to get the win for Vestal against the Yellowjackets, that after Matt Heichemer pitched five innings of two-run ball.
“We had a gutty performance from Mike (Kosty) today and in the first game between Heichemer and Iacovelli,” Anderson said. “Our pitching has kept us in games all season long.”
Corning had advanced to the title game with an 8-0 victory over Susquehanna Valley as Madden tossed a three-hitter with nine strikeouts.
Walker went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs and Speroni was 2-for-4 with three RBIs for Corning, which scored three runs in both the third and fourth innings to seize control against the Sabers.