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NEW PALTZ – All Marlboro High School baseball does is win titles.
The Iron Dukes gutted out a pair of 3-2 victories in the Mid-Hudson Athletic League baseball tournament on Saturday, nipping Wallkill in the morning semifinals and Spackenkill in the afternoon championship game, to win their fifth league crown in the last 10 years and second in the last three seasons.
It was a pair of nail-biters throughout a sunny, warm day at neutral New Paltz High School, and the heroes were plentiful. Tyler Choate went the distance in the semifinals and Tyler Curtis clubbed a game-winning solo home run to snap a 2-2 tie against the Panthers in the semis to put the Dukes into the finals, and right-hander Riley Strong went the distance in the title game as Willie Brown’s fourth-inning sacrifice fly proved to be the game-winning RBI against the Spartans.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games all year,” Marlboro coach Dave Onusko said. “It doesn’t seem to faze them.”
Strong gave up just five hits, and two of those were infield singles.
“It was mostly cutters and fastballs,” Strong said. “My defense had my back. It was just throw the ball and they’ll take care of it. As the game progressed, I felt like I got stronger and my pitches moved more.”
Marlboro’s Brett Gemmell said the championship was a result of a collective effort after last year’s very un-Marlboro like 9-9 mark.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “We’ve been working hard all season. We worked hard all through the offseason. We had a good feeling about this team.”
It was Gemmell who staked Marlboro to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning against Spackenkill with a two-run single.
“It was inside, a fastball,” he said. “I got a little jammed but I got enough on it.”
The Spartans, defending Section 9 Class B champions, showed why they were MHAL Division III champs this season, clawing back to 2-1 in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Blake Kawalski. But the Spartans also had a runner gunned down at the plate in the same inning, and lost outstanding freshman leadoff hitter Justin Etts to a possible dislocated shoulder after Etts dove safely into first base to lead off the inning and start the rally.
Marlboro tacked on what proved to be the winning run in the fourth when Matt Winkler singled with one out, stole second, moved to third on a single and scored on Brown’s sac fly, a rocket to the fence in left centerfield.
“Willie has struggled at times but he came through with a big at-bat,” Onusko said.