Piece of the Pie: Haldane wins state regional
PURCHASE, N.Y. – It’s been quite a ride so far for the Haldane baseball team. The Blue Devils defeated Tuckahoe in the Section 1 Class C championship and then cruised past Tri-Valley 7-0 in the regional semifinals on Tuesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, Haldane took the season to a whole new level. The Blue Devils defeated Section 11’s Pierson 3-0, taking home a regional championship for the first time in 11 years. Haldane advanced to the state final four where they will face Section 2’s Voorheesville at Johnson City High School in Binghamton at 10 a.m. If the Blue Devils win that game, they will play in the state championship against the winner of Section 4’s Lansing and Section 6’s Frewsburg at 4 p.m. that afternoon.
“This hasn’t been done in a long time,” said Haldane coach Tom Virgadamo, who is in his fourth year as coach of the Blue Devils. “The last few years it’s been our ultimate goal; to win the league and win the section. I told these guys, ‘It’s one thing to set goals in life; it’s another thing to achieve them.’ I told them to enjoy this; you never know when it’s going to end. Hopefully it doesn’t end until Saturday night after that championship game.”
Junior Ryan Koval was spectacular on the mound for the Blue Devils, pitching a complete game three-hitter. Koval also struck out five while only giving up one walk.
“This feels awesome; you don’t realize how great it feels,” Koval said. “It’s been 11 years; the last time it was other coaches… (Performing so well) is expected. I push myself hard all the time… It felt good, it felt real good.”
Starting catcher Andrew Balducci agreed that this was one of Koval’s best games.
“He was throwing hard,” Balducci said. “He normally throws hard but he had all his stuff today; he was hitting all of his spots… This just feels great; our whole team is riding high and we’re going to go up (to Binghamton) and hopefully win.”
Koval didn’t just do his damage from the rubber though. He also drove in two of Haldane’s three runs. One of his RBI was of the two-out variety, the fourth time he has done that in the last four playoff games.
“Ryan’s a clutch guy,” Virgadamo said. “He’s a team player. He leads by example; he’s a vocal guy. If someone’s not doing something right on the field, he picks them up. He’s an all-around leader and team guy.”
Haldane’s Matt Forlow stole third base in the sixth inning and forced an error to score the Blue Devil’s third run. Balducci was 2-for-3 from the plate while John Rotando was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Pierson’s Jake Bennett pitched well on the mound, giving up only six hits and striking out three in five innings pitched. Colman Vila came in to relieve Bennett and struck out two batters to end the sixth inning. Paul Dorego, Sean Hartnett and Tom Markowski each had singles while Forrest Loesch made a spectacular, barehanded double play from Markowski to end the fifth inning with the bases loaded.
“Our bats weren’t there today,” said Pierson coach Jonathan Tortorella. “We had some opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of it. We tried to put a little pressure on them and it didn’t work out. They made plays; they were the better team today… But you say Long Island championship, Suffolk County championship and a league championship and 21-4 overall; you have to feel pretty good about that.”
Haldane will travel to Binghamton for the state final four on Saturday and the Blue Devils believe they truly can come away as state champions.
“We’re going to approach it just like any other game,” Koval said. “Our expectations are to bring it home. We’re going there to bring it home; we’re not going there to lose. We feel good, we feel confident. We’re just going to play our baseball and we’re going to win games.”