SYRACUSE — Through its run to the Frontier League “C’’ Division baseball title, a Section 3 championship and a berth in the state playoffs, South Lewis had prided itself in being able to make contact against the best pitchers in key situations and executing the routine plays defensively that prevented teams from scoring cheap runs.
But Chad Brown’s club couldn’t maintain that formula Saturday, and the end result was a 4-0 loss to Binghamton Seton Catholic in the state Class C quarterfinals at Onondaga Community College’s beautiful new baseball facility.
The Falcons (18-2) had all sorts of trouble putting the bat on the ball against Seton Catholic senior left-hander Michael Korchak. Korchak, who will pitch for Division I Bucknell University next season, struck out 14, walked one and allowed five runners to reach base in a masterful performance.
“He just overpowered us and that doesn’t happen very often,” Brown said. “He had a good enough curve ball where he kept us off-balance. That’s by far the best pitcher we’ve faced.”
And, if the Falcons’ hitting troubles weren’t enough, the South Lewis defense committed four errors, including three in a row in the third inning. That negated a strong pitching performance by senior Jason Martin, who allowed three earned runs, eight hits and struck out eight in going the distance.
“Those guys have done the job behind me all season,’’ Martin said. “Today was just one of those days. They didn’t hit the ball that hard, but they put the bat on the ball when they needed to. And we didn’t.’’
Said Brown: “It wasn’t just the errors. It was errors on mostly routine plays. Jason must have been frustrated because he deserved better.’’
Martin hurt himself in the top of the first, walking two, including Dave George, who came around to score the only run the Saints (15-6) would need on an RBI single by Connor McCormick.
Lucas Kelly led off the South Lewis second with a triple to right field. But the Falcons missed a golden opportunity to tie the game when Korchak fanned the next three batters on swinging fastballs.
“I was just trying to jam them in the strike zone and work them in,” said Korchak, who helped pitch Seton Catholic to the state Class C championship a year ago. “It keeps them late.”
The Falcons did not have another scoring opportunity until the sixth inning.
“We needed to pick it up and put the ball in play more often,’’ Kelly said. “A game like this is all about momentum, and we never had any.’’
Infield errors on consecutive ground balls in the Seton Catholic third put runners on first and third with one out. Martin then threw a ball into centerfield when no one covered second on a potential double play grounder to the mound, allowing a run to score.
Martin did a masterful job of working out of more trouble by striking out the final two batters.
“Three errors in a row. I can’t remember the last time that happened,’’ said Brown. “They only got one infield hit in that inning so we should have shut them down.’’
The Saints did bunch four hits, including RBI hits by Korchak and Tyler Krowiak, to score two insurance runs in the fifth.
But the damage had been done.
Korchak retired 10 consecutive Falcons until Josh Wheeler doubled with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Shawn Loomis followed with a bloop single, but Korchak fanned Jake VanBeber and Loomis was thrown out at second trying to steal.
Korchak walked his only batter of the game in the seventh, but finished strong by ending the game on a strikeout.
Seton Catholic coach Jim Miller said it was nice to see his team come out on the winning side of a close game.
“We had 10 one-run games this year and five of our losses were in one-run games,” he said. “We are a low scoring team. But our pitching keeps us in every game.”
Seton Catholic plays Hoosic Valley of Section 2 in the state semifinals in Binghamton at 1 p.m. Saturday. Hoosic Valley blanked Section 10 champion Brushton-Moira, 5-0.