BATAVIA — The sign was affixed to the back wall inside the East High dugout, near the bat rack.
In purple letters, it read simply, “Why not us?”
Those three words had been the rallying cry for the Eagles in the Section V Class AA playoffs.
Sure, no Rochester city high school had played in the sectional championship game since 1980, and only East in 2005 had gone so far as the semifinals.
But this East team was different. These players not only hoped to stun the county, they expected to do so.
“They have tremendous heart,” East coach Kyle Crandall said.
On Friday evening, East’s magical ride came to a crashing end. They ran into a team that was just as confident and just as determined.
Webster Schroeder (18-5) used timely hits, an always-on-go offense and the strong pitching of senior Nick Lawlor to defeat the Eagles 14-0 at Dwyer Stadium. Lawlor allowed just three hits, struck out seven and faced the minimum number of hitters (21) thanks to four double plays.
“Hats off to Webster Schroeder,” Crandall said. “They were the best team in Monroe County and they proved it today.
“They beat us in basically every aspect.”
Still, the lopsided loss was such an inappropriate way for East’s season to end. The Eagles went 18-2 during the regular season, then posted playoff victories over Churchville-Chili and Penfield to become the first team from the Rochester City School District in 36 years to play for the title.
The Warriors, however, never let East gain confidence. They scored a pair of unearned runs in the second, Phil Ferranti singled home two runs in the third and Justin Graham laced an RBI triple in a three-run third inning to put East in a 7-0 hole.
“We could have done so much better,” senior infielder and pitcher Angel Segarra said. “But we got behind, we put our heads down and we didn’t pick them back up.”
While Schroeder collected 13 hits, the Eagles also committed five errors, a defensive aberration after playing errorless ball in 13 of their first 14 innings of tournament play.
“It’s tough, five errors; that’s not us, it wasn’t us all year,” said left fielder Jose Gonzalez, who made what probably was the best defensive play of the game with a sprint back and then catch of a fly to deep left in the sixth inning.
After losing a dozen players to graduation last year, Schroeder wasn’t necessarily expected to still be playing on Memorial Day weekend. But the players knew better.
“Losing all those seniors, people would say we weren’t as good,” Ferranti, a junior third baseman, said. “But we thought we were actually better. The whole season this was the goal.”
The Warriors scored in every inning but the first. They now will have a week to prepare for next Saturday’s state quarterfinal game at Frontier Field against the Section VI champion, either Lancaster or Niagara Falls.
“This is our goal every year, to end up in the finals,” Schroeder coach Matt Knight said. “But this team is different. They don’t play scared. They’re a great bunch of kids and they work hard.”
East, meanwhile, will have ever-lasting memories of a season that captivated so many.
“I will never forget this team,” Segarra said.
Said Gonzalez: “I’m very proud of all my teammates. This was the best season ever.”