Briarcliff senior pitcher Paul Henshaw had done a nice job shutting down Putnam Valley on Saturday at home in the quarterfinal round of the Class B playoffs. Then came the last inning.
With the Bears ahead 3-0 in the seventh, things got a little dicey for Henshaw as he yielded two runs and the Tigers put the tying run on third base with two outs. But in the pressure-packed predicament, Henshaw remained calm. He got Tigers’ third baseman Chris Wright to ground out to first base and top-seeded Briarcliff held on for a 3-2 victory.
Before Henshaw got Wright to ground out to end the game, Bears’ coach John Consorti made a visit to the mound. Consorti talked to his ace and tried to calm him down with the game’s outcome on the line.
“He told me to relax and keep doing my thing,” Henshaw said of the mound visit. by his coach. “He told me to bear down and I was able to regain my focus and keep doing what I was doing, which was jamming them inside.”
Henshaw was aided by a little bit of insurance support he received an inning earlier. After a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Lou Carrafiello that moved Spencer Kulman to second, pinch-hitter Matt Pasternak drove in what turned out to be the deciding run. Pasternak batted for first baseman Mike Pandolfo and lined a sharp RBI single to left field, knocking in Kulman and giving the Bears a 3-0 lead heading into the last inning.
The decision to pinch hit paid dividends for Briarcliff, and Consorti was happy Pasternak came up big when he sent him to the plate.
“It made me look good,” said Consorti. “Matt has more of a short swing and is a contact hitter, so I figured I’d give it a shot and it worked out pretty well.”
Putnam Valley received a good pitching performance from starter Eric Basso, who up until Pasternak’s RBI single in the sixth had only given up the two runs that crossed the plate when Carrafiello smoked a double to deep left in the second inning.
Consorti knew it was going to be a battle, facing off with the ace of the Tigers’ staff.
“You have to give credit to their pitcher,” he said. “We left a lot of guys on base, but this time of the year it’s going to be a struggle because it’s the playoffs – it’s what you would expect in a playoff game.”
The Bears will now move on to play the fifth-seeded Dobbs Ferry Eagles in the semifinals on Tuesday afternoon. Henshaw is hoping he and his teammates can continue the Bears’ run for a second straight sectional title.
“We have to keep it up and maybe change our approach a little bit for the next round,” he said. “I know Dobbs Ferry is a good team. I know they can hit and I’m looking forward to it.”