Led early, lost late.
The story of the Edgemont baseball season was retold accurately in the final regular season game and the outbracket game of sectionals.
The Panthers often had the bats going and strong starting pitching, but couldn’t keep that up for the duration of games. Against Valhalla in the regular season finale — a game that was ironically rained out several times despite being the original opening day game — the Panthers were up 4-0 through 3.5 innings, but lost 8-4.
In the outbracket of the Section 1 Class B tournament, host Edgemont fell 7-4 to No. 17 Pawling, even though they had jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
“We faced a lot of teams, including Pawling, that are similar in skill level, but it could have gone to either team,” senior Jackson Weiser said. “We wanted to win that game and many of us expected to win that game, but in that game it really came down to hitting, as did a lot of other games. We just couldn’t hit as a team very well.”
Despite a 6-14-1 record, the Panthers not only tripled their win total from last spring, but they also bounced back to make sectionals. The team went from being blown out almost daily in 2018 to competing almost daily in 2019.
“It was definitely what we expected of ourselves at the beginning of the season,” Weiser said. “All of us knew that we were not going to have a repeat of last year.”
There were only four games all season in which the Panthers were not competitive. They just couldn’t get over the hump in many of the close games.
“We were in every game,” coach Mike Cozza said. “Of our 14 losses, maybe eight or nine were by two or three runs or less. To have that experience is going to help the guys coming back. I brought up six JV kids for the playoff game. They saw the intensity and what it takes to play at this level. It’s going to help us for next year.”
Edgemont had last played May 10, so getting in the Valhalla game helped shake some rust off on May 16 prior to the May 18 playoff game.
“We came out strong,” Cozza said of Valhalla. “We were up 4-0. We were hitting the ball. We had like six hits into the third inning. I knew I was going to throw a few pitchers. Devin [Gialleonardo] pitched well for three and a third. He tired a little and lost the strike zone, but he had dominated the first couple of innings. We put the ball in play, moved runners over, got guys in with less than two outs.
“We gave up too many walks, too many freebies and they got some key hits in the fifth inning to tie it 4-4. Their nine hitter hit a double with two men on base to take the lead. We just walked too many guys. Three of the last four runs scored on one hit.”
Edgemont had trouble with Valhalla’s relief pitcher, whom Cozza said “had a funky delivery,” which threw the team’s timing off.
“Our struggle this year has been the outside pitch,” Cozza said. “We’re just not as aggressive as when it’s down the middle or on the inside. That’s just a problem we’ve had all year. We’ve been working on it. It works good for a couple of innings and then all of a sudden we just stop swinging at it.
“The umpire calls it for a strike even though we might not think it’s a strike, but if the umpire says it’s a strike then we’ve got to adjust to the umpire and start swinging at it. Early on we do and then all of a sudden one or two batters don’t and it’s contagious.”
That whole theme continued against Pawling.
“Same exact thing, the story of our season,” Cozza said. “We jumped out early. We were up 3-0 in the first. Second inning they scored three runs. Again we lost the strike zone a little bit to the eight and nine hitters. It was second and third with two outs and we walked them. The leadoff hitter got a single to make it 3-3. We took the lead at 4-3 being aggressive at the plate. We had four hits in the first two innings. They tied it 4-4 and then in the sixth inning Kevin [Lee] was getting close to his pitch limit.”
The Panthers gave up the lead at 5-4 and Pawling tacked on two insurance runs against Lee before Alessio Paolucci closed the game out. Being down by three runs was too much for the Panthers to come back from.
“We took too many pitches,” Cozza said. “We’re just not as aggressive as I wanted to be at the plate. I told the guys to learn from that for next year.”
Senior captains Anthony Langiulli, Charlie Rodnick, Devin Gialleonardo and Kevin Lee set the tone for Edgemont. Lee hit second, Langiulli third, Rodnick fifth, Gialleonardo sixth.
Weiser credited the captains for the team’s rebound season.
“I think it started with the captains,” he said. “Our captains were really good with getting the team to perform as well as possible and I feel like we were closer as a team this year than last year. I say all of us were 100 percent committed to trying to win as many games as possible.”
The team also graduates key players Hanaan Wajid and Phillip Orsini.
“Of the seven guys they were all starters or competing for a starting job,” Cozza said. “Phil had three of our six wins. Kevin had two and played first base, a little outfield when needed.”
The team returns leadoff hitter Andrew Klein, who had three hits against Pawling. Paolucci got a lot of experience on the mound and at first base as a sophomore and was the team’s clean-up hitter. Michael Miele was the backup catcher to Langiulli and Daniel Fourmier came back from a skiing injury to contribute. Gabriel Zolot and Michael Paiva will also fight for spots next year along with four sophomores who were on junior varsity.
“Those four are going to help us big-time next year,” Cozza said.
Weiser hopes to see the team continue to build with hopes of getting back to 2017 form when Edgemont was in the Section 1 finals before having to rebuild.
“Next year’s team has a lot of promise and a lot of them are young,” Weiser said. “They’ve gained a lot of experience from this year. They know to try to finish games on the hitting side mainly.”