By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
For Coach Matt Hazzard, the Cooperstown Hawkeyes hard-won 8-7 victory over the Tioga
Tigers was “surreal.”
“You can’t make that stuff up,” he said. “It was just incredible.”
The win – it came after a 4-7 deficit into the seventh inning – puts Cooperstown in the Class C Final Four for the second time in three years.
At 5 p.m. Friday, June 14, the Hawkeyes play at Maine-Endwell in the Final Four. The state championship game will be at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon at SUNY Binghamton.
“Our strategy is that we always feel confident,” said Hazzard, Head Coach Frank Miosek’s assistant. “We know the only team who can beat us is ourselves.”
That confidence is also bolstered by five team members who were also on the Cooperstown Hawkeyes basketball team that took home its own state championship in March.
“They carry a lot of the team’s leadership,” said Hazzard. “But you can’t beat this team’s camaraderie.”
The key play actually came in the second inning, when the Tigers had a chance to cement their lead.
With the bases loaded, Hawkeye Eric Deysenroth made a critical catch – the critical out that kept Cooperstown in the game.
In the seventh inning with a three-run deficit, Cooperstown was at the top of the order. The bases started to fill up, then sophomore Alex Hascup’s single brought in two runs. And senior Jesse Furnari’s single down the left field line brought in two runners to give the Hawkeyes the 8-7 lead.
“For a senior to be able to come through like that is really special,” said Hazzard. “These kids have a unique willingness to not be defeated.”
The formidable obstacle throughout was Pierce Hendershot, Tioga’s pitcher who is headed to St. Bonaventure, a baseball powerhouse, this fall. He also hit a home run.
But the Hawkeyes continued to grind away at him – by game’s end, he had been forced to throw over 100 pitches.
“We knew what was coming,” said Hazzard. “Our research told us that 75 percent of his pitches were strikes. We’re a very offensive team, and with all his pitches in the strike zone, we were able to capitalize on this and pick the pitches that we wanted.”
For Cooperstown pitching, Chris Ubner started and ended the game, with Kendall Haney, who also slammed three doubles, and Deysenroth pitching in relief.
“Haney’s third double was in the seventh inning, tying a school record for 13 doubles in a season.” said Hazzard. “That record was set by Frank Petrosky in 2007, and that team only reached the regionals!”
Early on, Tioga was ahead 3-1. The Cooperstown boys tied it at 3-3. Tioga moved ahead 4-3. Cooperstown tied it at 4-4. Then Tioga gained the lead which it lost at the end.
“We knew we could beat them,” said Hazzard. “We talked to other coaches who had beaten them, and studied what they did.”
The last time the baseball team went to the Final Four was 2017, when they were knocked out in the quarterfinals.
“We are the only team in the world who could bring home a championship to the home of baseball,” said Hazzard.