By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Alex Hage’s walk-off single to left field scored pinch runner P.J. Kiuber to give top seeded Cooperstown its third Section III Class C baseball title in five years, with a 4-3 eight-inning win over No. 3 Port Byron in the C1 tournament championship Saturday, June 12, at Damaschke Field.
“Right off the bat, I knew. We won,” said Hage, a senior who plays first base.
“I was just thinking I had to do my job,” he continued. “This was the spot. This is where I do the job I am here to do.”
Although there could be a legion ball game or two left for him to play, Hage’s walkoff was likely his last big at bat. He said he is looking forward to attending University of North Carolina-Wilmington in the fall, but he isn’t planning to play college baseball.
Luckily, he’ll have a section title to show for his final at bat, the third he and a handful of his fellow seniors have been around to experience for Cooperstown. The Hawkeyes won in 2017, advancing to the final four for the first time in school history. The 2019 team one-upped that performance, losing in the Class C state championship game.
The coronavirus pandemic took away two chances at state titles for the class of 2021, but the Hawkeye players and coaches said they are thrilled with their championships, especially after coming from behind Saturday, and also Thursday, against Pulaski.
“We ended the season on a win,” Cooperstown Coach Frank Miosek said. “How many teams get to say that?”
“This is the highest you can go this year and all three tournament games have been dramatic,” Miosek said. “We won 1-0, 10-9 and now 4-3.”
“It’s been a long time in the making, so it means a lot, especially with these guys,” Hage said.
Although the Hawkeyes have young talent making contributions in many ways, including Saturday, the heart of the team, the order, the infield, the outfield and the rotation was the six seniors, Hage, Alex Hascup, Kendall Haney, Alex Poulson, Derek Moore and Chris Ubner. Most of them have grown up together, have played baseball together since t-ball and two of their fathers, Bruce Haney and Brian Hascup, played for Miosek’s first Cooperstown baseball team 31 years ago.
“They are a good group,” Miosek said. “They did everything we asked them to do. They were with us when the 2017 team made the final four, just like we had some of the junior varsity guys up here with us today. That’s how you leave a legacy in this program.”
Haney got the win in relief, pitching out of the bases-loaded jam in relief of Liam Ford, who did the same thing for Treston Emerick.
Haney and Ubner are the two seniors expected to play college baseball; Haney at Herkimer Community College and Ubner at St. Thomas Aquinas in Sparkill. Haney came on with one out in the top of the seventh inning and got the final five outs in the game, including getting the Panthers 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth inning.
“We do not let the pressure get to us,” Haney said. “We go out and play hard. We have all been in this position before, especially us seniors. Me, Chris and Alex were all a part of the team that made the state finals two years ago and we got to be there when they made it four years ago.”
Cooperstown trailed much of the game, which featured mirrored innings. Port Byron took a 2-1 lead in the first inning on two walks, a stolen base, wild pitch and single to left field by Eli Jarabek that brought both runs.
The Hawkeyes countered with one run in the bottom of the first, when Ubner scored on Hascup’s triple to left field.
Emerick relieved Ubner on the mound in the fourth inning, but the game remained 2-1 until the fifth inning when Port Byron’s Gabe Rhoades scored after a walk, a wild pitch, a sacrifice and an error.
However, Cooperstown scored two runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. Haney got a one-out walk, Ubner doubled to left field and Hascup singled to left field to score them both.
Emerick put two on in the sixth inning, giving way to his fellow junior, Ford, who got an out, loaded the bases with a walk and then drew a pop up to end the inning.
An inning later, Haney did the same thing after Ford started the inning putting two on. Haney got a strike out, issued an intentional walk and then forced two infield outs to end the inning.
Cooperstown went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh, as did Port Byron in the top of the eighth.
In the bottom of the inning, Ubner popped up, Hascup walked and was replaced by Kiuber, who stole second and took third on a throwing error. Panther pitcher Connor Usowski gave Poulson an intentional walk to set up the double play, but that gave Hage his opportunity.
Usowski, an left-handed eighth grader, threw all eight innings in the loss, giving up four runs on five hits, striking out seven, while walking four and hitting one batter.
Hage went 2-for-4, Hascup was 2-for-3 with a triple, a run scored and three RBI and Ubner scored two runs for Cooperstown (14-1).