ENDICOTT, N.Y. – There are short-term plans and there are long-term plans.
McQuaid’s high school baseball team (Rochester, N.Y.) was able to fill in the blanks for both this spring, ending with a near-perfect — but close enough — ending that included the celebration of a state championship.
Hunter Walsh, owner of a right arm that may have been achy or sore earlier this week, and certainly not in top condition, pitched a no-hitter Saturday as McQuaid defeated Shenendehowa 5-0 in the Class AA state tournament final.
The Knights (24-2) carried off their first state baseball championship from Union-Endicott High, a place west of Binghamton that will be forever remembered for players and coaches on a team based 2½ hours north in Brighton.
“It was awesome,” Walsh said, right after catcher Ben Beauchamp declared him the best pitcher in the state in front of television cameras. “I was so glad to get this job accomplished with this team.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group to do it with.”
Here are some of the ways the Knights, ranked No. 8 in the Super 25 Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Region, reached their ultimate goal:
Buying in from the beginning
McQuaid coach Tony Fuller symbolically tipped his cap to the 13 seniors, 2 juniors, 4 sophomores and 4 freshmen on this state champion team.
The 13 seniors received a second helping of praise from the coach in his fourth year with the McQuaid varsity.
“These guys have been doing it since day one when they walked into McQuaid, their commitment, their desire to bring home the first state (baseball) championship,” Fuller said “It’s been a collective effort since day one when I walked into the door. They were freshmen my first year, these 13 seniors.
“It’s been a collective effort day in and day out. A lot of long, hard hours, 6 a.ms., and I’m just so proud of them. They earned this, it wasn’t something that just happened.
Class AA state final @McQuaidBaseball 5, #Shenendehowa 0 – Final@McQuaidJesuit wins first state title, after no-hitter by Hunter Walsh@SBradleyDC @StevieJ_ROC @Brodie_Iggy @baseballsectv @SecVAthletics pic.twitter.com/68J9LKYlt0
— James A. Johnson (@jjDandC) June 15, 2019
Walsh and third baseman Tyler Griggs were four-year varsity players for the Knights. Walsh dominated the postseason, tossing complete games against Fairport (a 1-0 win in the sectional quarterfinals, Penfield (a 7-1 victory in the Section V Class AA final), Frontier (a 2-1 win in the state quarters) and finally his virtuoso performance in the state final against Shen.
Griggs, a University of Connecticut commit, delivered two RBI in the state semis, including a solo homer over the fence at Binghamton University for the decisive run, and is the omnipresent teammate who is seemingly always the first one there to congratulate a teammate on a job well done.
Having faith in coach Tony Fuller
Beauchamp, standing a step or two away from his team’s dugout after the Class AA state final, had exactly zero trouble making it clear of his thoughts about some of Fuller’s moves in and away from games.
“That guys wins us ballgames with his decision-making. That guy wins us ballgames, just by the way he thinks,’ Beauchamp said. “We’ve been working for this so hard. We’ve been in and out of everything, all winter, putting in work.
“Lifting, hitting, everything because this is the only thing that we wanted. It wasn’t a reality until about a week ago, when we knew we were going to come here. Now, it’s really a reality, we actually did it. It’s probably the greatest feeling ever.”
Part of the push to McQuaid’s first state title is risk-taking.
McQuaid and Suffern of Section I were scoreless in the first inning of Friday’s state semifinal game at Binghamton University. A single and a wild pitch put Beauchamp on second base. There was one out when Griggs launched a pitch deep into the outfield.
Beauchamp naturally tagged up and advanced to third, then kept going past Fuller who was signaling for him to go home. There was no throw to Suffern catcher Jack Scanlon.
“Like we’ve done all year, we just run and put pressure on ‘em,” Fuller said. “When you put pressure on teams, it creates a little havoc, creates a little chaos.
“To score that first run with Beauchamp, it kind of knocked them out a little bit and gave us momentum, which I thought was important in a game like this.”
Fuller also made the call to give Walsh an extra day of rest and have Ryan O’Mara pitch on Friday instead. The common strategy seems to be to have the team’s No. 1 starter pitch in the semifinals, increasing the club’s chances of at least playing for the championship.
Look at how everything worked out for the Knights.
Hunter Walsh saves his best for last
Walsh, who was dominant all season with a 12-0 record and ERA less than 1.00, came close to pitching a perfect game in the state tournament final.
“Unbelievable, I mean, he was hurting a little bit for the last couple of weeks,” Fuller said. “The last week coming into this game, we really weren’t sure what we were going to get out of him.
“To get a no-hitter in a state championship game, I mean, against a program like that, it’s incredible. It’s just a testament to him. This is all him, man. He’s an unbelievable talent, competitor, so happy, so proud of him.”
There were no hits or walks for Shenendehowa, or errors committed by McQuaid after 5⅓ innings of the seven-inning game. A line drive to McQuaid first baseman Charlie Merkley gave Walsh the first out of the bottom of the sixth.
Shenendehowa center fielder Evan Bean worked the count to 3-1 before Walsh threw another strike. The count was full, and Walsh then walked Bean, before coming back to strike out the next batter, the last of his four Ks.
McQuaid’s defense handled everything else, including two groundballs to senior shortstop Noah Campanelli and a fly ball to left in the seventh.
“I could tell by the second inning, by the way that Hunter was spotting up his fastball, I mean, he was consistent, right where he wanted it,” Campanelli said. “I almost thought it was premature thinking he had something special here in the second inning.
“But he kept it going. The walk hurt, but we’ll take a no-hitter any day.”
The Knights can hit … and run
A double down the left field line by Andrew Bailey, a walk by O’Mara and then a balk by Shenendehowa pitcher Evan Jones in the second set up McQuaid’s first runs. Bailey came home on a single by Zach Lee and Patrick Xander drove home O’Mara.
Campanelli and Griggs pulled off a double steal to put themselves at third and second base with one out in the third. Campanelli scored on a dribbler hit by Bailey that didn’t roll very far past the pitcher’s mound, if at all.
Lee scored on a passed ball, and Beauchamp brought in another run with a double in the fourth.
The Knights were riding easy, practically leaving the only remaining drama for whether Walsh would leap off of the mound with a perfect game or no-hitter. A win, a big one, was almost certain.
“Every loss in the (state) semis two years ago, the sectional finals last year, to send these guys off with a good note, to leave with a good note, I’m going to remember McQuaid baseball the best possible way,” Campanelli said “They are going to do the same, and I’m so happy that.”