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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
CORNING — They say good things come to those who wait. On Wednesday night the wait was three hours and five minutes to get the final out, but in the end the Horseheads baseball team beat Corning 8-5 to walk off the field as STAC West Champions.

“It’s pretty awesome, it was definitely a good game,” Horseheads’ Riley Loomis said.

For Horseheads it’s the first STAC crown since 2019 and they head to Mirabito Stadium in Binghamton for a 1 p.m. matchup with Owego on Saturday in the STAC semifinals.

Horseheads had just six hits in the game, but they drew 11 walks in the game to help them pick up the win.

“We had six or seven errors,” Corning coach Erik Kizis said. “I think they had like four hits, and they only scored eight runs. At the end of the day, we were fortunate. The unfortunate part was we couldn’t score enough runs to get over that. Walks and errors were the story tonight.”

Both teams had some questions about the strike zone during the game, and it led to Horseheads coach Jeff Limoncelli being ejected from the game.

For Limoncelli he knows that he made a mistake arguing balls and strikes.

“You can’t argue balls and strikes, and I did,” he said. “I didn’t think I did enough to warrant it (the ejection), but that was his decision and I have to accept that and that’s it.”

Corning also had some questions about the strike zone at times, but at the end of the day Kizis knows that his team has to do better in tough situations.

“Strike zone was tough,” Kizis said. “Moved around a little bit, didn’t seem to be a consistent spot, and the kids had to work hard to get strikes. But, at the end of the day if that’s what’s going on, at the high school level we’ve got to be able to get the ball closer to the strike zone.

“If that’s what we need to do, that’s what we need to do and let them hit it. But, we were struggling to throw consistently locations today.”

For the Horseheads players it was definitely different being in a three-hour plus game.

“It is crazy,” Loomis said. “We always say the craziest things happen when we play Corning and today it showed. But, it was a good day.

“The first couple of innings it was going along, but then once the third and fourth inning hit it started to slow down.”

Corning struck first on Wednesday as Aidan Chamberlin led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run.

Horseheads came back with a run in the second and three in the third to take a 4-1 lead.

The Hawks came right back with three runs in the bottom of the third to tie things up.

With the game tied, Horseheads went to work in the fourth inning as they drew back-to-back walks, hit a sacrifice fly and then a double by Alex Daugherty to key a four-run inning.

For Horseheads they knew they faced a tough test against Corning’s ace arms, with Chamberlin and Burch throwing in the game.

Chamberlin went four innings, struck out two and allowed the six hits and Burch went three innings, striking out six and allowing no hits or runs.

“It’s not easy to come here,” Limoncelli said. “You face probably the best player in New York State in my opinion. I believe Chamberlin is outstanding. He didn’t have his good stuff today and we took advantage of it.

“We got guys on base, we were aggressive, we had some timely hitting. We forced some mistakes and that’s what you need to do. These are the games where there are two good teams, kids know how to play and the team that makes the least mistakes usually has a good chance of winning and today we made the least mistakes.”

For the Horseheads players it’s a big confidence boost to get a win against such strong pitching.

“Definitely gives us a lot of confidence,” Loomis said. “Especially with them throwing their two aces today and us still coming up with the W, that gives us a little more confidence going into those games (if they meet in sectionals).

“We prepared all week for them and I think if we keep preparing we’ll do even better when sectionals come around.”

Horseheads got some strong work in relief, with Alex Chrisman throwing two perfect innings of relief to get the save, striking out two.

Dylan Ribble went 2 2/3 innings as the starter, striking out four and allowing five hits, before freshman Mason Holloway worked 2 1/3 innings with four strikeouts, allowing three hits.

“We wanted to go a little bit more with Ribble, but he got a pretty tough pitch count and he tired out a little bit,” Limoncelli said. “So, we wanted to bridge the gape with a freshman who can give me an inning or so and then our plan was six and seven with Chrisman.

“It doesn’t always work out that way, but it worked out. He’s (Chrisman) a senior, he wanted the ball and he went out there and did what he had to do. I’m proud of him.”

The Horseheads players knew that the senior wanted the ball in his hands to close out the game.

“He did really good, he was hoping to come in and close it and he did exactly what he had to do,” Loomis said.

For Chrisman he was ready to deliver in the final innings.

“It’s a great feeling, this is what you wanted all year, first step, STAC West champs and we got it done,” Chrisman said. “It’s amazing to be Abel to close it for this great team. I love these teammates and to be able to close it for them is amazing.”

As Chrisman stepped on the mound in the sixth inning he immediately saw Chamberlin, Will Kibler and Landen Burch in his first inning of work.

“They are great hitters, I had to come out and hit my spots and get them out,” Chrisman said. “It’s definitely tough (coming in relief to face the heart of the Corning lineup), but you have to do what you have to do. Your coach calls you in and you have to go.

“I definitely wanted to close it for these guys. We deserve this, we have worked hard and they are a great team over there. We are definitely going to have a great series with them in the playoffs. I knew I was going to get the chance (to close the game) and I knew I had to get it done for this team.”

After the game had slowed down in the middle innings, Chrisman worked fast, and effectively to end the game.

“That’s just how I like to pitch, to move fast and get us through the inning,” Chrisman said.

The pitching of Horseheads was tough for Corning to handle late in the game.

“They split it up with Mason and he’s long,” Kizis said. “He’s got good angle and then they brought in Alex at the end and he really pumped the zone and did a good job. He’s a senior and he’s been doing it a long time. He did a nice job and he closed it up on us.”

Daugherty had a double, an RBI and a run scored for Horseheads and Jackson Cook, Loomis, Chrisman, Dom Russ and Gavin Wert all had hits for the Blue Raiders.

Cook scored two runs and Chrisman had an RBI. Russ scored two runs and Wert had an RBI and scored a run in the game.

Jackson Holloway and Matt Procopio scored runs for Horseheads in the game.

Chamberlin had a home run, a triple, an RBI and three runs scored for Corning and Will Kibler had two hits, an RBI and a run scored.

Carter Rosno had two hits and Mason Smith and Zack Nelson had hits, with Nelson driving in a run and scoring a run. Landen Burch had an RBI.

For Horseheads it’s now on to the STAC semifinals.

“I am happy for my kids,” Limoncelli said. “I have six seniors who get to go to the stadium, Mirabito Stadium and get to play there. We are a hot team right now and we are just going to try and keep it going.

“Obviously we had to waste some arms today, we still have a few (to use). We are happy to go and we are looking forward to playing, no doubt.”

Horseheads plays Waverly on senior night today before the STAC Tournament. The Blue Raiders have won 10 in a row as they wrap up the regular season with Waverly.

For Corning it’s onto the sectional playoffs next week. While the loss was tough, it is something Corning can learn from.

“That was the first thing I said to the kids,” Kizis said. “This isn’t the end of the world. It hurts, and it stings and you want to win every game out there. But, this isn’t a sectional loss. This isn’t the end of the season. We still have games to play.

“We’ll be the two seed and we’ll open up against Elmira here, we’ll face (Bryce) Mashanic, he’s good. So, we’ll have to figure it out and be able to win that baseball game so we can get back to a three-game set (with Horseheads).”
IN TOP PHOTO: Horseheads’ Matt Procopio reacts after scoring a run on Wednesday. PHOTOS BY BRIAN FEES

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