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Baseball Rallies to Clinch State Title Berth

May 24, 2022

Photos courtesy of Dan Skaritka.

Our legendary 2009 girls’ soccer team has company.

Yesterday afternoon, the baseball team topped #3 Fieldston, 7-3, in the NYSAIS semifinals to become just the second team in school history to punch their ticket to a State Championship game. The 2009 girls’ soccer team finished the job in a 2-1 win over top-ranked and undefeated Sauquoit Valley and the baseball team will have their shot at history vs. top-ranked Poly Prep on Wednesday. To get there, it took a rally that required multiple heroes up and down the lineup.

Aaron Babaev took the mound for the Bears and, after a ground out on the first pitch, he yielded a soft liner to right field and a walk before striking out the next batter on three pitches. He was a strike away from getting out of the inning when what looked like an inning-ending ground ball took a baffling hop and brought in the game’s first run. The sophomore bounced back by picking off the runner at second to end the inning. After the Bears sat down in order in the bottom of the 1st, Babaev needed just seven pitches to yield a pair of ground outs and a strikeout to bring the Blue & White bats back to the plate.

Jayden Stroman led off the 2nd with a 3-2 walk and promptly stole second and then third with two outs. With the tying run standing 90 feet away, Jojo Franco came through with a single up the middle to knot the game at 1-1 and provide the Bears with an early emotional lift. Babaev began the 3rd inning with two quick outs, but two walks sandwiched around a single loaded the bases. The sophomore was again just a strike away from escaping damage when a wild pitch and a pair of throwing errors on the play gave the Eagles two runs and a 3-1 lead. Babaev showed resilience by inducing a fly out to limit the damage.

The Bears went down in order in the bottom of the 3rd before Alex Baaden came on in relief of Babaev in the top of the 4th. With a runner on second and two outs, the sophomore battled back from a 3-0 count to strike out the final batter of the inning as calls of “Let’s go hit!” echoed around the dugout. The Brooker bats responded in a big way in the bottom half and it was Babaev who lit the fuse with a one-out line drive to right. Seth Laureano, who had a pair of loud doubles in the quarterfinals vs. LuHi, followed with a 350-foot blast to the base of the center field wall and Franco was intentionally walked to load the bases. Jadden Rodriguez made them pay by sending an opposite field line drive to left to halve the deficit. On the very next pitch, senior Sam Ribeiro DiCanio came through with a huge pinch hit single to left to plate two and give the Bears a lead they would not relinquish.

Baaden began the 5th with a backwards K on a 3-2 pitch, then followed with a walk that Devon McMorris erased on a steal attempt. Another walk followed, but a fly out to right ended the inning. After the Bears failed to extend their lead in the bottom half of the 5th, Baaden came out for the 6th and gave up what looked to be a sure line drive single that died in Babaev’s glove on a full-extension dive, sending a charge through the large crowd. After surrendering an infield single, the only hit Fieldston got off of Baaden in 2.1 innings, Logan Charboneau came on to get the final five outs for the Brook. After a fly out to center and a 4-3 ground out the Bears were within three outs of the state final.

Still clinging to a 4-3 lead in the top of the 6th, the clear message in the dugout between innings was: ‘Find some insurance runs.’ The boys did just that, setting the table for a big inning with a Laureano hit by pitch, a Rodriguez walk, and a Baaden bunt single that loaded the bases with just one out. Fieldston moved within an out of ending the inning, but Tyler Jones’ line drive to center doubled the Bear lead. Charboneau followed and the freshman came through in a big spot, chopping a single up the middle to bring in two more runs and send the Brook to the last of the 7th with a 7-3 cushion.

Charboneau started the inning with a strikeout after falling behind in the count, 3-0, then induced a 6-3 ground out on a 3-2 pitch that put the Brook on the precipice. A pair of walks followed, but the freshman refocused and struck out the Eagles’ clean-up hitter to end the game and unleash a wild celebration on the pitcher’s mound. In 100 years of Bears baseball, the Blue & White earned a spot in a state title game.

Heroes abounded as Babaev, Baaden, and Charboneau, two sophomores and a freshman, limited the Eagles to just 3 hits while striking out a combined 8. Ribeiro DiCanio and Rodriguez, who haven’t found themselves in the lineup every day, came up with huge RBI hits in the pivotal 4th. Jones, Charboneau, Laureano, Franco, and Baaden came up with key knocks. Stroman was a devil on the basepaths. It was a victory that truly required a total team effort and a deep collective belief, and the boys delivered. Despite falling down 1-3 early, this young but immensely talented team drew from a well that was filled up during autumn wind sprints, and 6:00am lifting sessions, and an ambitious early season schedule, and a furious comeback vs. Grand Street, and hundreds of other choices, and challenges, and lessons that brought the team to this moment thanks to the belief and leadership of coaches Jon Brewer, Dustin Mones, Noah Bakker, and Tony Passalacqua.

The Bears move on to Wednesday’s NYSAIS Championship vs. #1 Poly Prep scheduled for 3:30pm at the Hackley School.

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