ITHACA - Corning prevailed in extras despite blowing a three-run seventh inning lead to capture its first Section IV Class AA title since 2016 with a 5-4 win over Ithaca in a decisive Game 3.
“Baseball-wise, this is the biggest win [of my career],” Corning head coach Eric Kizis said. “Last year we had 11 seniors and won a STAC championship. We expected this stuff last year. When you lose 11 guys of 17 you don’t really have that realism anymore. It’s, ‘We have to have to do some work.’ We knew that we could get better by the end of the year. These kids are coming together really strong.”
The Hawks took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning, but Ithaca stormed back to tie the game with an RBI single from Gil Merod after an RBI double off the bat of Holden Lazarus. A wild pitch from Aidan Chamberlin tied the game at four.
“We knew we had to get out of that inning,” Corning head coach Eric Kizis said. “We knew that we had more depth pitching-wise. We had the confidence that if we extended the game and got out of that inning, we’d be fine.”
With the winning run on third and one out in the inning, Corning head coach Eric Kizis chose to intentionally walk the next two batters to load the bases with one out and keep Chamberlin in the game.
“The guy on third is the winning run, so the guy at first and second don’t matter,” said Eric Kizis. “You really have no choice but to load the bases so you have other options.”
The next Ithaca batter, Joe Guidi, bunted on a squeeze attempt right back to Chamberlin who got the out at home and then proceeded to strike out the next batter to give the Hawks another chance to bat.
In the top of the eighth, Blake VanWoert led off drawing a walk, laying off a breaking ball in the dirt on a 3-2 count.
Tanner Kizis bunted VanWoert over to second and a Noah Walker single gave Corning the go-ahead run on third with one out in the inning.
The next batter, Mason Smith, put a bunt down that scored VanWoert and gave the Hawks back the lead at 5-4.
Tanner Kizis relieved Chamberlin in the eighth inning and induced three ground ball outs to earn his third save in three playoff games for Corning.
“I just went out there with a cool head, had to throw my fastball right in there because I knew that if I threw a strike, they’d hit a ground ball,” said Tanner Kizis. “I just had to get the first two outs and I knew we were done.”
Section IV Class AA semifinals hero, the freshman Chamberlin cruised through six innings, allowing only two hits, with the only blemish being a sac fly in the sixth inning, despite soreness earlier in the week.
“All week long, it was a big question,” said Chamberlin. “I was trying to do everything to bounce back, but today I did what I always do. Ready to pitch and go out and get a win.”
The Corning offense jumped on Lazarus with three runs in the first inning on three hits, one more than Lazarus allowed in Game 1 through six frames.
The early runs from the Hawks helped Chamberlin settle down and pitch effectively.
“It was a huge confidence booster knowing that I still had those three runs to sit back on if need be,” said Chamberlin.
Chamberlin helped his own cause with an RBI single, VanWoert walked with the bases loaded and a Walker fielder's choice RBI gave Corning the early advantage.
“We put three up early, then we went through a little bit of a dry spell,” said Eric Kizis. “Holden [Lazarus] didn’t have his bearings early on, but as the game progressed he got it back and he figured it out.”
After the first inning, the Hawks recorded only three hits in the next three frames against Lazarus, with the only run coming in the sixth inning on an RBI single from Smith to push the Hawks advantage to 4-0 at the time.
The Hawks finished the regular season 8-10, but have won three of four contests in the playoffs and will travel to Saugerties Thursday for a matchup against a team to be determined from Section IX.
“Going into the season, we were counting wins,” said Eric Kizis. “I think we can make a run [in sectionals] we have tough pitching tough defense and if we can continue to hit the ball, we’ll be alright.”