FISHKILL, N.Y. Keio pitcher Kento Suga shut down the Briarcliff offense when the teams met in the regular season on May 11. But it was Briarcliff pitcher Paul Henshaw who quieted Keios bats Wednesday night in the Bears 5-0 win in the Section 1 Class B Championship game at Dutchess Stadium.
The Bears (20-4) have now won consecutive section titles. They advance to the regional semifinals on Monday.
Keio (15-7) mustered just three hits off of Henshaw in a game that lasted just an hour and 27 minutes. Henshaw, who earned MVP honors for his complete-game, shutout performance, said the Bears had something to prove after the regular-season loss.
We definitely looked to show we were the top team in the section, Henshaw said. Once they won that game, they got a lot of confidence, and we wanted to prove them wrong in what they thought.
The Bears got to Suga in the second inning when Spencer Kulman tripled to drive in the Bears second run. Later in the evening, Ryan Huegel turned on the first pitch he saw and drove it into left field to bring in two runs and increase Briarcliffs lead to 4-0. Suga settled down after that, but the bats did not give him much help, as Keio had just one hit through the first five innings.
John Fussell added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth for the Bears fifth and final run.
Keio coach Rocky Pasquale said that without (Suga), we dont have the success that we have at all. But he did acknowledge that the Unicorns general lack of offense finally caught up to them.
Theres no doubt that he settled down, but weve got to give him some offense, Pasquale said. Our pitchers have been throwing all year without any support. Not only do they have to pitch well, theyve got to pitch well knowing that they dont have too much support behind them offensively.
Keio had runners on first and second down 4-0 in the top of the sixth inning with their best bats poised to head to the plate, but the Unicorns failed to capitalize on what was their best chance to score. Pasquale said even that sequence did not inspire much confidence.
I felt like we never really challenged. There wasnt an inning where I felt really good about us scoring, Pasquale said.
Pasquale said before the season that he expected it to be a strange one. Now that the season has ended, he used that same word, strange, to describe it. But he did express joy at what his players had done in the past several months.
If I thought Id be standing on this field in September with 15 wins, I would have laughed and said, No way, Pasquale said. Just to get here to do what weve done all season has been fantastic.
Kulman and the Bears celebrated their second consecutive section title, but the junior quickly pointed out that the team is far from satisfied.
(This section title is) just as sweet. Its all good, but, I mean, we still got work to do, Kulman said. Were only halfway to where we want to be. Just got to work at it more.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.