SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — There are many tiers of talent in any milieu and athletics is certainly no exception. Winning a division title sets a team above its similarly sized rivals and is noteworthy to be sure. Especially when it happens for the first time.
For the Tri-Valley baseball team, taking two of three games from Chester, with two of those encounters decided by one run, afforded the Bears their first-ever OCIAA Division V title. Back in the days of the old Western Sullivan League, Tri-Valley had won crowns but not against Orange County foes like Chester, S.S. Seward and Tuxedo, who join Fallsburg and Eldred now in the division. The Bears went on to defeat Chester 1-0 in the Section 9 Class C semifinals behind a gem pitched by senior ace Joe Mickelson. Tyler Lopez scored the game’s only run after being walked, stealing second and scoring on a base hit by Steve McInerney. Then in the title game, the Bears faced S.S. Seward, a team that came back from a 7-0 seventh-inning deficit a year ago to beat them 8-7. With George Baggata on the hill for the Bears, the same pitcher who threw six shut-out innings last year before the seventh inning calamity, Tri-Valley looked to avenge the defeat and claim their first Section 9 title since 1990.
Seward scored in the top of the first on a single, a stolen base and an RBI single from Anthony Rico. With senior ace Andrew Bailey on the mound, the Spartans kept the lead until T-V tied it up in the fourth as Rodney Jester led off with a double, moved to third on a sac bunt from Greg Swarthout and scored on a groundout from Mickelson. The game remained knotted as Baggata grew stronger, retiring the Spartans 1-2-3 in the fifth and sixth and working around a Seward leadoff single in the seventh. He struck out two batters and induced a ground out to end the potential go-ahead threat. Mickelson led off the bottom of the seventh with a double, moved up on a passed ball and scored when Baggata sent a walkoff single over the head of the Seward right fielder.
They say the cream rises to the top and the Bears have done that thus far, moving up the tiers of talent to new heights. This week, they open their state campaign in Pleasantville, NY against Section 1 Haldane. Mickelson (7-0), with an ERA under 0.2, will try to keep the magic going. Other local teams were not so fortunate in their sectional encounters.
Sullivan West’s softball team, which had just clinched its second Division IV title in three years with a 7-1 league mark and was the number-one seed in Class B, suffered a 19-3 loss to O’Neill. Liberty’s girls lost to O’Neill 10-2 two days prior. O’Neill went on to lose the title game to Highland 4-2. Liberty’s boys lost to Burke 8-5 on a three-run walkoff homer from Eagle Tom Sullivan. Livingston Manor, the NYS defending Class D champions, lost 4-3 by surrendering a bases-loaded walk to John A. Coleman Catholic in the Section 9 title game. The Manor girls who are defending state champs in Class D softball move on to play Deposit. Tri-Valley baseball and Livingston Manor softball are the only teams left alive in Sullivan County as of this writing.
At the Section 9 track and field state qualifier, a number of county athletes qualified for the state meet at Cicero North High School in Syracuse on June 8 and 9. They include the following: Liberty’s Kane Sauchuck in the 110 hurdles (15.48) and the 400 hurdles (56.25); Eldred’s Hunter Proscia in the 3000 Steeplechase (9:53.64); Sullivan West’s Mitch Paciga in the high jump (5-10); Liberty’s Kenny Jaycox in the long jump (21.7.25); Fallsburg’s Michael Robinson in the triple jump (44-9); Liberty’s Mike Hinton in the discus (143-7); Liberty’s Peter Koval in the javelin, which is not a state event (144-5); Fallsburg’s Candhace Forrest in the 100 (13.03); Tri-Valley’s Mareena DiMilia in the 100 hurdles (16.03) and the shot put (34-10); Tri-Valley’s Katlynn Greffrath in the pentathlon (2230 points); Tri-Valley’s Dominique Darby in the shot put (36-1); Eldred’s Breanna Brucher in the pole vault (10-3). Tri-Valley’s Jimmy Bernstein missed the state meet by two hundredths of a second in the 1600 but recorded a PR of 4:26.24, which qualifies him for Eastern States. Eldred’s Hunter Proscia missed out in the 3200 by four hundredths of a second.
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