BATAVIA — As the Section V baseball regular season unfolded, it became clear as to who the top two teams in Class D1 are. And with no upsets within the bracket, those two teams will be able to decide on the field who will get the block.
Tuesday night, No. 2 seed Notre Dame will be at No. 1 seed Keshequa in what is sure to be a classic championship game.
The Fighting Irish will enter the game at 14-4, winners of seven of their last eight games, while the top-seeded Indians have lost just once – a 1-0 setback to York on June 2 — and come in at 16-1. Both teams have cruised through their first two sectional games, with Keshequa beating Genesee Valley (14-0) and Fillmore (15-5) and Notre Dame rolling past Alfred-Almond (18-1) and Arkport-Canaseraga (13-3).
And while both teams can get it done with the bats, it will be the pitching and defense that will carry them to the block.
Behind seniors Jordon Luther, Riley Rease and Aidan Wood and junior Kellen Wood, Keshequa will enter the sectional title game with a team ERA of 1.21. Luther is 4-1 with a 0.63 ERA and had allowed just 11 hits with 20 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings; Rease is 4-0 with a 0.39 ERA and just seven hits allowed with 27 strikeouts in 18 innings; Wood has struck out 37 in 21 2/3 innings with just eight hits allowed and an ERA of 0.97. It’s safe to bet that one of the three will get the start against Notre Dame, while all three pitched in the win over Fillmore in the semifinals. Luther gave up four runs in the first inning, in part due to a couple of errors, while they all combined to allow just one run the rest of the way.
With the game tied at four, Keshequa scored four times in the fifth and seven times in the sixth to break it open.
While the overall numbers for the Fighting Irish may not be as good, they will certainly enter the game with a collection of arms that are equal to, or better than, those of Keshequa.
Outside of a loss to Akron, which was their sixth game in seven days, and a confusing loss to Oakfield-Alabama to end the regular season, the Fighting Irish staff has surrendered just 34 runs all season, and will come in with a team ERA of 2.11.
The start for Notre Dame will likely come from senior lefty Gavin Schrader or freshman right-hander Ryan Fitzpatrick, who picked up the win over Arkport-Canaseraga in the semifinals. Schrader has a somewhat high ERA of 3.16 after the rough start against O-A, but he has struck out 60 and allowed just 16 hits in 24 1/3 innings. Fitzpatrick is 5-1 on the hill and leads the team with 35 2/3 innings pitched, while he has allowed just 17 hits and struck out 64.
Head coach Rick Rapone could also go with Bryceton Berry, who is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA and just 11 hits allowed in six games, and 22 1/3 innings pitched.
Notre Dame’s offense will be led by an impressive top of the order, paced by Fitzpatrick, Schrader, Colin McCulley, Berry and Vin DiRisio.
Schrader has been a force all season and is second on the team with a .449 batting average to go with three doubles, five triples, five home runs, 12 runs batted in and 29 runs scored.
Berry has hit a team-best .473 average with two home runs, 18 RBIs and 18 runs scored, DiRisio leads the team with 25 runs batted in with five doubles and 16 runs scored, Fitzpatrick has a team-leading 26 runs scored out of the leadoff spot to go with a .33 batting average, a home run and 11 RBIs and McCulley has driven in 16 with 17 runs scored.
In all, the Notre Dame offense is averaging just under 10 runs per game.
Keshequa comes in hitting .340 as a team, led by senior Adam Hunt, who is hitting a team-high .432 with 11 runs scored and 16 RBIs. Rease has also been attacking the ball all season, hitting at a .419 clip with four triples, three home runs, a team-high 21 RBIs and 19 runs scored.
Luther leads the Indians with 22 runs scored to go with seven RBIs and a .306 batting average, while Wood is hitting a cool .420 with five doubles, two triples, 18 runs scored and 11 RBIs.
Senior Trey Learn has also had a solid season, hitting .341 with four doubles, 12 RBIs and 16 runs scored.
The Indians have also stolen 76 bases in 82 attempts, led by 18 from Luther.
Notre Dame will be looking for its first Section V title since 2014, while Keshequa hasn’t been on top since winning the Class C championship in 2007.
First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Nunda at Rymer Complex.