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May 25, 2010

Grand Island baseball barely gets by in first playoff game

By Doug Smith Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — Get out your brackets and call it “May Madness.” Sixteenth-seeded Starpoint, without enough “Ws” to fill a lineup card, came within two eyelashes of knocking No. 1 defending champion Grand Island out of the Class A sectional playoffs Tuesday.

The Vikings survived, 3-2. The winning RBI barely escaped the batter’s box and a replacement third baseman started two double plays to deflect the Spartans’ best shot.

Spartan John Corbi calmed the hard-hitting Vikings on seven hits. “Just a great effort showing senior leadership,” said coach Tim Racey, too thrilled with his team’s play to even think of “what if’s.” Starpoint finished 6-14.

Smallball paid big for the Vikings (19-2) with the score 2-2 in the fifth. Joel Klock walked, cleanup man Nick Kellner sacrificially bunted him up and Korey Hagen singled to deep short, a great effort by Matt Doyle keeping Klock at third.

Jon Voyzey topped Corbi’s next pitch into the dirt in front of the plate. By the time it got to Corbi, Klock was home.

Starpoint didn’t yield. After Brendan Reinert walked to open the sixth, Corbi ripped a one-hopper that Ben Tomkins speared at third, starting a round-the-horn double play. Steve Smouse then bounced one deep into the hole; shortstop Voyzey shot-putted a rainbow to first, where Mike Sperrazza came a yard off the bag to make the tag.

And catcher Tyler Hinamen held onto a foul tip to end an eight-pitch at-bat with a runner in scoring position for the 21st out.

“We’ve played solid defense all year,” said relieved head Viking Dean Santorio. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy. Playing Monday helped Starpoint; they faced and hit a good pitcher (beating Cheektowaga 5-3) and they came here ready.”

When the Spartans took a 2-1 lead on Andy Lane’s single in the fourth, Santorio lifted starter Ben Tomkins. Brian Brink came over from third; Tomkins took over the hot corner. Andy O’Donnell hit one right on the screws; Tomkins seized it and turned into an inning-ending double play.

Chris Moody singled home Hinaman to tie it in the fifth.

With that help from his friends, Brink closed strongly for the Vikings, allowing one more hit, Andy Lane’s double in the seventh. O’Donnell doubled twice in the early innings but was stranded both times. Through three innings, Starpoint was 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Grand Island plays host to No. 9 Lewiston-Porter in the quarter finals Thursday at 5. Sharpen your pencils.