VESTAL, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Columbia baseball team brings new meaning to the old adage, “it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.”
Two weeks ago, the Blue Devils’ season was nearly over – trailing by two runs and down to their final out in the Class A sectional championship game.
But they fought and scrapped their way to victory that game, and their resilience has been rewarded; Columbia will now compete Saturday for a state title.
The Blue Devils blanked Sec. XI’s West Babylon 3-0 Friday afternoon at Binghamton University in the state semifinals behind a masterful outing from senior pitcher Jacob Skarlis.
Columbia scraped across a first-inning run on an Eagles error, giving Skarlis an early edge. Then he went to work, carving through a West Babylon offense that averaged nearly eight runs a game this season.
The game remained 1-0 heading into the top of the sixth inning; that’s when the Blue Devils provided their ace with a bit more breathing room. After loading the bases, shortstop Naim Greenberg-Nielsen was hit by a pitch, allowing Ronan Kreshik to score. That gave way to Columbia’s left fielder and leadoff hitter, Steven Heller, who watched four wide ones, earning a free pass to first base, which brought in another run. That pushed the Blue Devils’ advantage to three runs, which was more than enough support for Skarlis, who retired West Babylon in-order in the bottom of the seventh, locking down a complete-game shutout.
Skarlis, who will be donning a Columbia jersey for the final time Saturday, enjoys getting the opportunity to lead his team in pressure situations.
“I love it; this is what you live for as a kid growing up,” said Skarlis. “You want to have the ball when it matters, and it’s great to come up for your team. I was just getting ahead of the hitters, and using my off-speed pitches for strikes. They (West Babylon) made a lot of weak contact, so I thought getting ahead of hitters was important for me today.”
After back-to-back extra-inning victories in both the sectional championship game and regional round of the state tournament, followed by a low-scoring nail-biter Friday, Columbia head coach Chris Dedrick admitted while he’s thoroughly enjoyed his team’s postseason journey, it hasn’t come without its’ fair share of stress.
“I’d love to have at least one game where we come out and put some runs together with our bats a little bit,” joked Dedrick. “But the tight games have been a lot of fun, and I know the fans have loved them.”
Columbia will take on Sec. I’s Walter Panas in the state championship game Saturday. First pitch from Binghamton University is set for 1:00 p.m.