June 7, 2012 —
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.