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Twelve pitches into the season and it appeared any lofty goals John Jay-Cross River baseball had set were painfully walking off the mound. Will Jahn felt something very wrong in his right arm. The Indians’ ace was done for the year less than an inning into the season.
Until that moment, John Jay was a team of promising players centered around a true ace. But with Jahn gone, the Indians were expected to be nothing more than long-shot contenders in an overcrowded Section 1 Class A landscape.
State semifinalists? The notion, even as recent as the opening round of the sectional tournament two weeks ago, seemed implausible.
“If we had Will, I would have bet the house on it,” John Jay pitcher Sam Mines said after Tuesday’s regional final win.
Yet here the Indians are, traveling up to Binghamton this weekend for the New York State final four. It’s their first appearance on the stage, putting them two wins away from what could be one of the most unlikely championships in Section 1 baseball history.
It’s no secret that John Jay has gotten this far on the strength of its pitching and defense. The staff, led by Trevor Filacchione, Alex Brown and Mines, has risen with the postseason heat, starting a revolving door of pitching playoff gems.
Jay has allowed just eight runs in six playoff games after entering the Class A sectional tournament as a No. 6 seed.
“I don’t know how you have anything but a (special) feeling,” Indians coach Geoff Curtis said. “We got two hits and we beat Beacon. That’s tough to do. … We’ve said for the last three weeks ‘Why not us?’ and the boys have embraced it.”
Confidence is soaring for the Indians, who’ve outscored their two state tournament opponents, Maine-Endwell and reigning champ Cornwall, 16-3 combined. There’s been a wealth of contributors throughout, making them potentially the most dangerous team in Binghamton this weekend.
“When you get to this level, everybody is the same,” Curtis said. “You play it clean and you pitch, you’ll do well.”
John Jay: 2013 at a glance
Top 3 Wins
1. John Jay 2, Beacon 1 on May 31: This was supposed to be the coronation for Beacon, not only because Jay lost 10-2 to them during the season but because how well the Bulldogs had swung the bat in the playoffs. Jay, though, shut them down. Filacchione pitched a gem and Scott Michaels and Mines did their part in relief as the sixth-seeded Indians captured the title.
2. John Jay 3, Brewster 1 on May 14: If you want to trace where the current run started, go back three weeks to this gritty victory. Coming off an ugly 10-2 loss to Beacon the day before, Filacchione pitched a four hitter with five strike outs and Tyler Keech and Anthony Patti drove in runs in the victory. Since the Beacon loss, the Indians have allowed just 13 runs in 56 innings.
3. John Jay 5, North Salem 0, April 26: Entering this game, the Indians were a sub-.500 team coming off four losses. As Mines posted zeroes in a scoreless game entering the bottom of the fifth, Anthony Patti and Matt Albert each drove in a pair during a five-run, two-out rally. This was an early confidence-building win over their rivals.
Playoff MVP: The starting pitchers. In six postseason games, Jay has allowed just eight runs total. With Sam Mines, Trevor Filacchione and Alec Brown, you can’t really pick one over the other. Mines gets the most attention but Filacchione may have had the best performance of the playoffs, shutting out mighty Beacon for 5 2/3 innings in the Section 1 final. Brown’s effort against Maine-Endwell was spectacular and Mines took down Cornwall in the regional final.
Unsung hero: Anthony Patti. In the middle of every championship team is that versatile player who rarely has a bad at-bat. Patti, a senior center fielder, has become that player for John Jay and he’s continued to get better in the postseason.
Projected Starting lineup
1. Anthony Patti, CF
2. Jack Weiller, SS
3. Tyler Keech, 3B
4. Alec Brown, P
5. Jason Valvano, LF
6. Matt Albert, C
7. Sam Mines, RF
8. Scott Michaels, 1B
9. Chris Ciliberti, 2B
Scouting the Final Four
Semifinal opponent: Williamsville South (Section 5). Williamsville is 18-2, ranked second in the state in Class A, and are coming off a win oer Pittsford-Sutherland in the regional finals. The Billies have an ace Damian Powers, a rocket-armed 6-foot-4 righty who also headlines a deep lineup. Powers, who is also a basketball standout, pitched seven innings on Tuesday and could be ready to take the mound again. Tyler Piasecki, who’s headed to LeMoyne, could also take the hill and is a standout hitter.
Championship opponents: Queensbury (Section 2) and Long Island champion Bayport-Blue Point square off in the other semifinal at 10 a.m. Queensbury is 20-5 behind star pitcher Charlie Peltz, who pitched three consecutive no-hitters late in the season and five shutouts in a row. Bayport is 25-0, ranked No. 1 in the state and a heavy favorite entering the weekend. Jack Piekos (10-0) and Chris Brewer (8-0) anchor the staff while the offense has managed just one home run all year.
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org