The Ithaca Little Red baseball team saw its season come to a close with a 5-4, extra inning defeat to the Corning Hawks in game three of the best-of-three, Section IV Class AA Championship series at Ithaca College on the afternoon of Friday, May 31.
The loss comes as a heartbreaking finish to a season that saw the Little Red march its way to a 13-5 record throughout the regular season. The original slate of games was capped off with a sectional semifinal victory over Elmira, 7-1.
The Hawks advanced to the championship series after stunning this season’s STAC and two-time, defending Section IV Champion Horseheads Blue Raiders, 3-2.
The stage was set for an exciting championship series, and Ithaca wasted little time utilizing the home-field advantage in game one, jumping out to a 4-0 lead. Ithaca would add on an additional four runs, while junior Holden Lazarus looked nearly flawless on the mound, allowing just two hits and striking out eight batters during his six innings of work, as the Little Red cruised to an 8-0 victory.
The victory was secured with a resounding, three-run home run from junior Andrew Alise in the bottom of the fourth, seeming to give all the momentum in the game and series to Ithaca.
In game two, however, the Little Red traveled to Corning and saw the full retaliation of the Hawks where Corning found a way to score in bunches, following the early 1-0 hole from an Owen Glahn RBI double that scored Billy Block.
The Hawks answered and showed that winning a Section IV title would take a lot more than it did in game one.
The two teams traded the lead four times throughout the six and a half innings, with Corning dealing a blow with a four-run bottom of the fifth that would prove insurmountable by the Little Red, despite Alise’s two-RBI double in the top of the seventh. The Hawks would hold on for a thrilling 10-8 win to force a decisive game three at Ithaca College’s Freeman Field.
On what was the warmest and driest day of all three game days, the Little Red and the Hawks pulled out all the stops and turned to their aces on the mound, as Ithaca pitched Lazarus against Corning’s Aiden Chamberlin.
From the beginning, the Little Red found themselves with their backs against the wall after Corning took advantage of seeing Lazarus for the second time in a week, tallying three runs in the top of the first for the early lead.
Ithaca did little to bail out their pitcher, answering the Hawks offensive showing with a one-two-three inning, the first of five hitless innings that were dealt by Chamberlin.
The next scoring in the game would come in the top of the sixth inning as Tanner Kizis reached on a two-out walk and came around to score on an RBI single form Corning’s Mason Smith.
Down in a 4-0 hole, the little Red was gifted a leadoff baserunner after senior Gil Merod was hit by a pitch and pinch run for by freshman Garrett Backus. A walk to Alise and a single to Noel Foster put the Little Red in a no-out, bases loaded situation. A hitter later, Dom Varma lifted a sacrifice fly to right field that allowed for Backus to cross the plate, earning the Little Red its first run of the game. The momentum was quickly squandered as the Little Red left two runners stranded after back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
After the Hawks had no answer to Ithaca’s run in the top of the seventh, the door remained open for Ithaca to come back, down only 4-1.
A leadoff single from Block put the Little Red in business in the top of the seventh. The next hitter, Lazarus brought in Block with an RBI double to make it a 4-2 game.
A single to right field from Merod would send Lazarus racing home from second to make the difference just one run, 4-3.
Two walks and an error in the next three at-bats would walk Merod to the plate, tying the game at 4-4. The inning would come to an end, but the Little Red had forced extra innings.
A leadoff walk to Corning’s Blake Van Woert would give the Hawks the start they were looking for as a sacrifice bunt from Smith would eventually bring Van Woert to the plate for the go-ahead run.
Ithaca had its back against the wall for the second straight inning, but the second time would not produce the same result, as Kizis, who pitched the final inning, recorded three ground-outs to clinch Corning first Section IV title since 2016.
When the dust settled, the Little Red finished with a 14-7 record and a sectional runner-up finish, something the program had not accomplished since 2009.
Ithaca will graduate seven seniors but have proven that the underclassmen are ready to take the reins and lead the team toward a Section IV championship next season.
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