By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It was a matter of learning from the past. Having a flair for the dramatic didn’t hurt either.
Tournament MVP Max Swartz hurled a complete game as the No. 3 seed Aquinas Li’l Irish claimed the Section V Class A2 championship with a 2-1 victory over the No. 1 seed Batavia Blue Devils, Friday at the Clark V. Whited Complex on the campus of the College at Brockport.
Swartz struck out five and walked one. He worked in and out jams throughout the game, but was at his best with the tying run in scoring position in the sixth.
“He doesn’t throw hard; his curve ball isn’t 12 to 6,” Aquinas coach Mark Magliocco said. “It’s just unbelievable. He’s just got a will about him when he takes the mound. He hits spots that other kids can’t.”
Trailing 2-0, Batavia’s Alex Canty led the bottom of the sixth with a triple to right center field. Jerry Reinhart followed with an RBI double.
But Swartz didn’t flinch.
The senior left-hander struck out the next three Batavia batters to end the inning and stranded the tying run at second.
“I just tried to forget that, keep my composure and truck along,” Swartz said of his mindset. “Changing speeds and hitting locations was my key.”
“That was unbelievable,” Magliocco said. “We’ve had a lot of good pitchers in my time here, but that particular moment was special. It was very special.”
After allowing at least one batter to reach base in each of the first six innings, Swartz retired the side in order in the seventh to clinch the championship.
“When he struck out the side, I just knew right then and there that we had them,” said Swartz’s battery mate, Matt Carroll. “We had them with that. That was big.”
Swartz left two runners on in each of the third and fourth innings. Batavia looked ready to pounce in the fifth when Casey Radka led with a single to center, but Bryan Speranza ended the inning with a spectacular play.
With one out, Tyler Hale sent a sinking line drive to center field. Speranza took away a hit with a sprawling catch and was alert enough to catch pinch-runner, Chandler Baker,wandering of the bag at first for a double play.
“That’s a major league play,” Magliocco said. “It was probably the best outfield play I’ve seen when you combine it with the throw.”
Speranza got Aquinas on the scoreboard in the second inning with a one-out RBI single to center. John Altpeter led the frame with a base hit and moved to second on James Huber‘s ground ball to the right side of the infield. Speranza jumped on an 0-1 pitch to give the AQ lead.
“I saw a fastball right down the middle,” Speranza said. “Sent it right up the middle.”
The Li’l Irish tallied another in the fourth when Nick Grella‘s cue shot scooted past Batavia pitcher Trevor Sherwood and Huber came home on the play.
For Aquinas, though, a stinging loss to Batavia on the last day of the regular season was a reminder of the need to finish. On that day, the Blue Devils rallied with three runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 6-5 victory.
“Errors cost us that game,” Carroll said. “We were confident knowing that we really lost that game. They didn’t really win it. Going into today we thought if we get up early, we knew what we needed to do, and we would come out with a win. We were able to do that.”
The sectional title was the first for Aquinas since taking the BB crown in 2012.
Aquinas will move on to play A1 champion Canandaigua in the state qualifier.