A four-run third inning capped by Austin Saeva’s two-run single and solid pitching from Kyler Lacarte and Kenny Saunders powered the Le Roy Oatkan Knights to a 5-3 victory over Batavia in a Class B regional qualifying high school game tonight at Dwyer Stadium.
The victory – played before a crowd estimated at 1,100 -- avenges an 8-0 defeat at the hands of the Blue Devils in the title game of the Batavia Rotary Tournament last month and, more importantly, propels the Knights into regional competition on Saturday against Section 6 Class B champion Medina.
Saturday’s game will be played at Lockport High School and is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Le Roy put runners in scoring position against Batavia starter Taiyo Iburi-Bethel in the first two innings but failed to score while Batavia had two on and one out in the second but was unable to cash in as well.
The Knights broke through in the third, however, scoring four times on a pair of hits with two walks and two hit batsmen sandwiched in between.
Shortstop Giovanni Caccamise led off with a single and advanced on a stolen base and passed ball before first baseman Reece Tresco was hit by an Iburi-Bethel pitch. After designated hitter Tim McMullen was intentionally walked to load the bases, Batavia Coach Rick Saunders pulled Iburi-Bethel, moving second baseman Alex Hale to the mound.
Kenny Saunders worked a walk after fouling off three straight 3-2 pitches and Caccamise pranced home with the first run. Hale then hit Tommy Saunders with a pitch to load the bases again and a wild pitch made it 2-0 in Le Roy’s favor.
That was it for Hale and center fielder Andrew Francis came in to pitch. Saeva greeted Francis with a hard shot between third and short, past the drawn-in infield, and the Knights had a 4-0 lead.
Francis then struck out the next two batters and held Le Roy in check until a two-out triple to the gap in right-center by Tresco (who went 2-for-4) plated Tyler Slaven to give the Knights a 5-2 edge.
The Blue Devils scored a run in the bottom of the third as Francis singled, moved to second on an error and scored on Sam Sallome’s sharp single. Lacarte regrouped, however, to retire the next three batters.
Batavia had an excellent chance to cut into the lead in the fourth as Hale singled and advanced on Josh Weis’ infield hit. Francis then hit into a fielder’s choice, putting runners on the corners, before Trevor Zewan drew a walk to load the bases.
Lacarte escaped the jam by retiring what would be the last batter he faced, Sallome, on a first pitch foul pop to Tresco.
Kenny Saunders took the mound for Le Roy in the fifth and, after getting the first batter, gave up an infield hit to Iburi-Bethel, who went to second on an errant throw on the play. He was on third when, with two outs, Hale drilled an RBI single to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Trailing 5-2 in the sixth, Batavia got one-out hits from Francis and Zewan, with another Le Roy error – the Knights’ fourth of the game – putting runners at first and third. Sallome then hit a fly ball to center, scoring Francis, but Zewan was called out for failing to retouch second base on his way back to first after the ball was caught.
Francis set the Knights down in order in the seventh, setting the stage for an exciting finish, despite Batavia’s first two batters going down by a fly out and strike out.
Kenny Saunders had been mixing his fastball and change-up effectively, but lost his control as he walked Jake Humes and Hale.
Pinch-runner Zach Anderson and Hale then executed a double-steal on a 1-1 count to pinch-hitter Nate Ryan. With the tying run at second, Ryan fouled back a 2-2 pitch before popping one up near the third base line. Pitcher Saunders ran over, caught the ball with just the glove hand and then threw the ball and mitt in the air, touching off the victory celebration for the LeRoyans and their fans.
Le Roy improves to 17-4 while Batavia, which outhit the Knights, 9-6, and committed just one error, ends its first-ever Section 5 championship season under Coach Saunders at 14-8.
Story by Mike Pettinella.
Photos by Steve Ognibene.
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