By BILLY HEYEN
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Victor’s bats made loud contact all night long at Frontier Field. The loudest came in the bottom of the fifth inning with Chris Varone at the plate.
The Blue Devils were up eight at the time, but after blowing a big lead in last year’s sectional semifinal, they weren’t going to let that happen again. Victor had already set its team-record for home runs in a season earlier this year. Regardless of circumstance, when Varone made contact with a 1-1 fastball on the outer half, one thing was for sure: It was a no-doubter.
A sign marking 402 feet from home plate resides in dead-centerfield at Frontier Field. Varone’s shot went just to the left of that number and out easily. On a night when almost everything Victor hit was hit hard, the bench was still speculating minutes later as to just how far Varone had hit that ball. He just appreciated the chance to jog instead of sprinting for a triple earlier on in the game.
“I don’t have great stamina,” Varone said. “Love to get the jog instead of the sprint.”
Chris Varone just hit a two-run ???? to dead center at Frontier Field. 402 is the number on that fence. @vshsbaseball leads 12-2 in the fifth. Here’s the celebration after the moonshot. Some of the Blue Devils are still in disbelief on the bench. pic.twitter.com/zJZ8w3CLR1
— Billy Heyen (@Wheyen3) May 25, 2018
After the game, Victor head coach Sean Rucker called it a 420 foot home run. It exemplified the offensive outburst that the Blue Devils had on Thursday night, as they tallied 19 hits en route to a 15-2 win over Webster Schroeder. They scored eight runs in the first inning. Varone had his homer and added a triple. Ryan Lukas went 4-for-4 out of the six spot in the order. All the hitting meant one thing to Victor postgame: a rematch with McQuaid — the team that came back to knock the Blue Devils out in the semis last year — in the Section V Class AA final on Saturday morning back at Frontier Field.
“Everyone on our team is pretty gritty,” Lukas said to explain the hitting performance, “and wants to get to the sectional final and beat McQuaid.”
As the higher seed, Victor was the home team and couldn’t have started off much better. Drew Delaney worked a 1-2-3 top of the first inning. Then, an eight-run bottom of the first.
Walk. Flyout. Varone triple. Error. Single. Single. Single. Fielders’ choice. Single. Single. Single. Flyout.
The Blue Devils batted around, plus two — 12 batters came to the plate in the inning. Seven different players recorded a hit.
In last season’s sectional semis, Victor put up a six-spot against McQuaid in the first and eventually blew it. There would be no let up this time around for the Blue Devils, even as Drew Delaney pitched six innings and allowed just two runs so that the eight would have been more than enough.
“We just said we’re not gonna take our foot off the gas,” Rucker said. “We’re just going pedal to the metal the whole way through and just keep playing it like it’s close.”
Of his four hits, Lukas hit his deepest in the bottom of the fourth, an inning in which Victor tacked on two more runs. The right-handed junior roped a liner to right centerfield to score a run. He wound up on third with a triple, his lone extra base hit of his four, to go along with two RBI and two runs scored.
By the time Lukas batted in the bottom of the fifth, he was as locked in as could be. An 0-2 deficit in the count didn’t bother him. He worked it back to 1-2, then fouled a pitch off and then just shot the ball through the left side of the infield.
“The pressure is on,” Lukas said of days when the whole team is hitting. “And I think us and me individually like pressure, and we thrive in those spots.”
— Billy Heyen (@Wheyen3) May 25, 2018
Postgame, Varone and Lukas both brought up McQuaid unprompted. They’d been in the ballpark to see the Knights beat Penfield 3-1 in the first semifinal.
After a junior-heavy 2017 Victor team had its season cut short by McQuaid — only three players from that Blue Devils team graduated — they remember blowing a big lead. They remember the feeling of the season being over as the Knights went on to win a sectional title. But now a Victor team with 10 seniors gets a do-over.
“We’ve just been waiting ever since then,” Varone said. “We knew we were gonna get our shot at them. So now’s our time, we’ve got to come out and play again.”