After talking about winning a baseball state championship, the dream is a reality for the McQuaid Knights.
The way McQuaid won the Class AA state championship Saturday probably was a little different than how the Knights and coach Tony Fuller envisioned, but the ballclub is the first from Section V to win a New York State Public High School Athletic Association title since 2019.
While neither of McQuaid's top two pitchers were able to go to the mound, sophomore Matt Wilmarth, and senior Will Russotti were able to hold back Fayetteville-Manlius so the Knights could win the state tournament final 4-2.
The Knights (19-5) joined the 2019 McQuaid squad as state champions, something that players like Will Taylor, Daniel McAliney, Aiden Stewart, Russotti and other seniors on the team said they talked about back during pre-season workouts.
Since Taylor (three) and McAliney (four) split the seven innings of pitching during the semifinal win over Massapequa the day before, neither were eligible to pitch much, if at all, against Fayetteville-Manlius (of Section III or Syracuse region.) McAliney ended up not playing due to an injured hamstring.
Player of the game
Matt Wilmarth, McQuaid right-handed pitcher: While players are always told to be ready, Wilmarth, a sophomore, might have believed the chances that he would be McQuaid's starting pitcher in the state final were low until the semifinal unfolded, including the discovery of McAliney's injury.
Wilmarth allowed 1 run and 3 hits in 5 innings. He did walk five batters, and that edged the Knights toward some trouble, but seven Hornets were struck out by him.
"In the beginning I was," Wilmarth said about being nervous. "Once you get out there, you just trust your training.
"We belonged where we were. We were definitely prepared."
The bottom of the fifth.
Zach Allen led off for McQuaid with a double, after Fayetteville-Manlius made the score 1-1 in the top of the inning. Seth Albert came in to relieve Hornets starter Danny Swift, but McQuaid's Ed Hall produced a RBI-double.
The half-inning continued with McQuaid ahead 2-1. Dominic Romano, another sophomore, bunted Hall to third. The sacrifice enabled Hall to score while Russotti grounded out for the innings second out. The Knights were ahead 3-1 with two innings to play.
By the numbers
2 - Relief innings pitched by Will Russotti, who allowed a run in the sixth and retired the Hornets one-two-three to close the game in the seventh. Left fielder Mekhi Stephens, a senior, caught a fly ball for the final out.
2 - McQuaid baserunners thrown out at the plate. C.J. Phelps was caught by Hornets left fielder James Mason and catcher Stephen Wratney in the bottom of the third. Tanner Degrazia tried to stretch a triple and McQuaid's 1-0 lead with two out in the fourth, but was nabbed by Max Danaher and Wratney.
10 - Fayetteville-Manlius baserunners left on base.
They said it
"I found that I was starting about one-and-a-half, two hours before the game. I knew everyone had my back. I just had to go out and do my job" - McQuaid right-handed pitcher Matt Wilmarth, a sophomore whose last appearance on the mound was as a closer in the team's regular-season finale.
"This was his third start of the year" McQuaid coach Tony Fuller.
"He dominated. I expected nothing less." McQuaid pitcher/outfielder Will Russotti said about Wilmarth.
"We knew we could do it. We just needed to play like we played, we did it and we won. Just playing hard. We are the hardest-working team. We're in the weight everyday. We're grinding, practicing hard, staying after practice, getting out early to practice, getting swings in. We play hard." Will Russotti, McQuaid pitcher/outfielder.
"After Will and Danny threw yesterday for us, and they battled and got the win, I figured I would come in (during the final)." McQuaid pitcher/outfielder Will Russotti said.
"The goal since the start of the season was to win the state title. It was a great experience to be here. We knew we had each others' backs, we knew we could do this." - McQuaid pitcher Matt Wilmarth.
Placement of the state championship plaque into the sports case and a team banner that will go up at McQuaid Jesuit.
(Check back for updates)
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Section V baseball: McQuaid state final