One pitch, one out, one inning, one game. That’s the motto Kenmore West baseball Coach Johnny Haynes and the Blue Devils have lived by during the 2017 season. On Monday, that phrase came to fruition during the Blue Devils 8-1 Class AA quarter-final playoff win over Orchard Park.
Sophomore Ace Dom Schmidt took the hill for Kenmore West and went the distance, striking out 10 Quaker batters along the way. Ben Serrano, playing in his final year smacked a three-run homer in the seventh inning and made the play of the year in centerfield to close out the game.
Orchard Park finished the regular season 11-8 and came into this game as the 6th seed. They drew a first round bye as did Ken-West (winners of 13 during the regular season) who were seeded 3rd and had the home field advantage vs OP.
Schmidt began the game with back-to-back strike outs but then gave up three straight hits, led by Cole Hollins who singled to right field. Jordan Lewis doubled to right and then Troy Hattala took Schmidt to left field, which scored Hollins. The next batter Zach Prince flew out to right field and Schmidt was out of the jam.
In the bottom half of the first the Blue Devils Zach LaPlante recorded his first of two hits on the afternoon. But moments later was caught stealing 2nd and Serrano flied out in his first at bat to end the inning.
Schmidt started off a little shaky in the 2nd as he hit the first batter he faced, Hunter Filsinger. The next batter flied out to 2nd base. Pat Gavigan then hit into a sure double-play but senior Scotty Haynesworth juggled the ball and was unable to make the flip at 2nd. Next batter up for OP was the lead-off hitter Troy Banks, he too hit a ground ball to Haynesworth, but this time was able to turn two and end the threat.
In the bottom of the third inning senior Rich Fries started things off off with a single and soon advanced to second, thanks to a sac bunt by junior Andrew Fron. That brought up the top of the order and the LaPlante brothers went to work. First, the lead-off hitter Kyle a 10th grader doubled to deep center bringing Fries around to tie the score. Zach, a senior singled to right, that scored brother Kyle and gave West the lead.
Serrano and Adam Pray each singled to load the bases for Schmidt. The ace hit a grounder up the middle that should have been an easy double-play ball but instead Gavigan, the OP starting second baseman mishandled the ball and was unable to make a play at 2nd, instead he forced a throw to 1st but Schmidt was able to run through the bag in time. Zach LaPlante scored as a result.
Jacob Pray, Adam’s twin hit a sacrifice fly ball to left, moving Serrano across the plate, giving the Blue Devils a 4-1 lead. Haynesworth, the following Ken West batter hit a rocket towards short but Banks made a major league leap to rob him of a sure hit. That ended the inning.
With extra run support, Schmidt went back to work in the 4th and began mowing down one Quaker hitter after another. He struck out seven of the next 10 OP batters. Serrano added more insurance for the Blue Devils in the bottom of the sixth, when with two outs he hit a three-run shot to right field, clearing the fence by a mile.
Serrano wasn’t finished there. Playing in centerfield, he chased down a long fly ball to right-center field and laid out to make one of the greatest catches you will see at any level. That was the final out of the game that carried Ken West into the semi-finals Thursday where they will play Clarence.
“This game is about limiting your mistakes” Serrano said after the big win. “We have the bats to do it also and we got our runs across when we needed to.” Serrano finished the day going 2-for-3 with 3 RBI’s. “I’m real proud of the way we played today we didn’t get down on ourselves and played hard. Now we have to win Thursday.”
Schmidt threw 122 pitches giving up four hits and striking out 10 while picking up his first post-season win as a Blue Devil. “It feels great to get the win” Schmidt said. The lefty faced 29 batters and finished just three pitches shy of the maximum pitch count number (125). “For whatever reason I struggle early, it’s been a common theme but George (Kaselis) made a nice catch in the field in the 1st and that settled me down” the sophomore said. “From there I started to hit my spots and made good pitches. Fries got our bats going and the LaPlante boys as well and the run support came in. It was like getting a second wind, it’s a good feeling when you have some runs to work with as a pitcher.”
Coach Haynes was very happy after the game ranking this at the top of the list. “This team is like a family. A lot of them have been here a while, Benny, Fries, LaPlante, Scotty the Pray’s and Gourlay (not in lineup today) have been through a lot” Haynes said. “You know this team has a lot of heart and although we struggled early, maybe a little timid, but once the hits came so did the confidence.”
The Blue Devils will have another tough test on Thursday when they play at Clarence in the semi’s.
Serrano without a doubt must be in the conversation for player of the year. “That kid has been on fire since I can’t tell you when” Haynes said. “Benny has played every position except pitcher and catcher and he gives you 120% each time he goes out there, no mistakes, hammers the ball. Just a great, great baseball player and he deserves more recognition for what he has accomplished here. He’s a huge part of the program, been on the team since he was a freshman.”
The final play of the game was sportscenter material. OP’s Ben Shoop hit a shot to deep right-center in which Serrano chased down at full speed and layed out, making an extremely difficult catch look easy.
“That’s our Benny” Haynes said.
Photo Credit Mike Dugan
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