Margaretville advances to Legion regionals

By John Bernhardt
A Patrick O’Connell pitching gem, near perfect defense, and timely offense helped propel Margaretville past Sidney, 3-1, in Monday’s qualifying round for the District Championship in Junior American Legion baseball.
The victory advances the Legion Post 216 team into regional play with Margaretville slated to play in a double elimination tournament held at Chenango Valley High School on Thursday and Friday.
At publication deadline, it had not yet been determined whether Margaretville would play at 3 or 6 p.m. on Thursday or who their first round opponent would be.
Margaretville’s move forward started with a gritty pitching performance from O’Connell. The young pitching ace needed only 86 pitches to go the distance, throwing a six-hitter and allowing only one extra-base hit. O’Connell struck out nine, walked two, and hit two batters along the way.
On the other side of the field, Sidney’s Kevin Davie was equally impressive. In fact, Davie no-hit Margaretville over the final four innings he hurled. The lanky righthander went the distance, striking out eight and walking only two.
But, Margaretville massed all five of their hits during the first two innings. O’Connell used only eight pitches to retire Sidney to start the game, and the Margaretville bats got busy in their half of the inning. Ian Williams led off by lofting a soft flare single over the third baseman’s head into short left field. Williams stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. O’Connell helped himself by legging out an infield single to plate Williams with the game’s first run.
Post 216 used the running game to manufacture a second run in the inning. O’Connell swiped second base and advanced to third when the Sidney catcher’s throw deflected off the shortstop’s glove into center field. Clean-up hitter Shannon Franco blooped a single into center field driving home O’Connell.
Things got sticky for Margaretville in the Sidney second. Tanner Westcott was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Dylan Van Pelt legged out an infield single and when Van Pelt rounded the bag too far at second, Franco’s throw trying to pick him off sailed wide, advancing the runners to second and third with nobody out. Margaretville survived the scare by making the first of several defensive gems in Kevin Davie’s at bat. Davie lined a hit to right field scoring Westcott, but Nate Tuck hit Franco as the cutoff man and Franco fired a strike to the plate with catcher Jon Fairbairn slapping the tag on Van Pelt. O’Connell then settled down to get out of the inning.
Margaretville got the run back in their half of the second. With one out, Garrett Fairbairn lined a double over the center fielder’s head. One out later, Ian Williams slammed a triple to deep right field to plate Fairbairn.
William’s blast was the last hit Post 216 would get in the game. That was all Margaretville would need as strong pitching, heads-up defensive play, and some awkward Sidney base running kept the visitors off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Sidney threatened to tie the game in both the fifth and sixth innings. Trevor McPherson led off the fifth with a single to center and Matt Vogel followed with a double to place runners in scoring position with nobody out. Margaretville dodged a bullet when McPherson froze at third and failed to score when Ian Wingate grounded out to second. McPherson was then gunned down at the plate by Franco when the first baseman played Josh Wilkee’s grounder. Grant Cure ran down Aaron Woods’ line drive in left-center field to end the inning.
Cautious base running aided the Margaretville cause in the next frame. With one out, Sidney had runners at third and second once again. Davie ripped a hard ground ball to the hot corner with Post 216 third baseman Ryan McDowell making the play to first for the out. When the runner on third failed to advance, his teammate on second wandered too far off the base and Franco gunned him down trying to get back to the base to complete an unusual double play.
O’Connell coasted through Sidney’s final at bat getting McPherson at first on a bunt attempt. The Margaretville hurler fanned Vogel, then had to wait one batter when Wingate’s infield grounder was thrown away for a rare Margaretville error. Josh Wilke tapped a come backer to O’Connell to put it in the books Margaretville.