ENDWELL, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Chatham baseball team has an opportunity Saturday to leave a legacy no other team in program history has managed.
The Panthers sit one win away from becoming the first baseball team ever at Chatham to win back-to-back state titles.
The opportunity is there after a 7-4 win over Sec. V’s Notre Dame Batavia in the semi-final round of the Class C state tournament Friday afternoon at Maine-Endwell High School.
With the game still scoreless heading into the bottom of the third inning, Chatham broke out for four runs, two of which came from the bat of sophomore catcher Logan Smalley, who plated a pair of Panthers on a bloop double to center field.
But the Fighting Irish showed their fight the following inning, scraping across four runs of their own to knot the game back up.
Chatham’s motto all season, though, has been how it embraces adversity, and that showed in the ensuing innings. The offense responded in the fifth with a sacrifice fly from Smalley and an RBI double out of left fielder Michael Pierro, reclaiming the Panthers a 6-4 edge.
They tacked on one more insurance run from there, while senior starting pitcher Tyler Kneller buckled down on the bump, tossing three straight scoreless innings to close out the game, punching Chatham’s ticket back to the state championship.
Kneller said after the game that despite a rough fourth inning, the faith he had in his teammates and himself never wavered.
“I had full accountability and trust in all my teammates,” said Kneller. “I was at my lowest in that fourth; they came through. We love this; adversity is what we love. So, I went out there; I believed in myself – and my teammates – and we got it done.”
As reigning state champions, the Panthers knew they had a target on their backs this season. And this group has embraced the challenge all year long.
“We came into this season with pressure,” said Smalley, whose three RBI was a game-high. “We knew we were gonna be hunted, and we’re (still) here. But we got one more game. Gotta get the job done.”
And Chatham will have to get through Sec. I’s Tuckahoe Saturday to get that job done. Be sure to set your alarms; first pitch from Binghamton University is set for 10:00 a.m.