RHINEBECK — What a spring it’s been for the Lakeland Central School District, including Lakeland and Walter Panas. The district pulled in a pair of Section 1 titles and had four teams challenging for a title in their respective sectional championships, including two softball teams in NYS Class A semifinalists Walter Panas and sectional runner-up Lakeland; the two-time reigning Section 1 Class A champion Lakeland baseball team, which was eliminated from the state tournament last Thursday in a 5-4 loss to Section 4’s Maine Endwell; and the Section 1 Class A runner-up Lakeland/Panas boys’ lax team, which fell in the finals to two-time defending champion Mamaroneck.
Coach Dale Chappelle’s Panas softball team has made an historic run to the NYSPHSAA Class A Final 4 after last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Section 9 champion Minisink Valley at Rhinebeck High School where the state-ranked (No.8) Panthers (16-9) played sparkling, web-gem defense, scored early and tacked on a late insurance run in support of Panas sophomore P Olivia Bordenero.
So, this No.10 seed from Section 1 – playing with house money the whole time – is on the verge of challenging for a NYS title this weekend at Moreau Park in South Glens Falls. Stunning!
“Some people will tell you we’re really not a 10-seed given the teams we’ve faced in Section 1 and the league we play in,” Chappelle said. “You don’t get any better at anything unless you have to fight up hill, so I like the underdog role. That was one of our best showings we’ve had from our outfield all season. They had struggled a little bit sometimes here and there, but it hadn’t been too costly.”
If fact, it was game-saving stuff on Saturday. Panas senior CF Brianna Viola snatched two home runs off the board and chased down another gapper to prevent at least five runs in all. Fellow Senior OF’s Gianna Servedio and Jenna Guevarez both turned in big plays as well.
We talked in this space last week about ‘Senior Moments’, and the need for that veteran presence in big spots. Young superstars – which Panas has plenty of – need that support. You can see for yourself from the front page of this sports section, just how big Viola’s ‘senior moment’ was.
“I can’t tell you how good I feel for that kid,” Chappelle said. “All three of our outfielders are seniors and each one of them had a big play today. They may not get a lot of the press that some of the others do, but they came up big when we needed them.”
None bigger than Viola. Momentum took her grab at the mesh over the fence, but she had both feet planted firmly on the ground at the time of the catch, taking a three-run homer off the board.
“That was amazing, I still don’t believe it happened,” Viola said. “I’m like speechless. I just followed the ball like I usually do and don’t pay much attention to the fence, which is why I flipped over it.”
As a result, Panas is going to the flippin’ Final 4…
LAKELAND baseball is another club we fully expect to recover from its 5-4 loss to Maine-Endwell in the opening round of the NYS Class A tournament. Coach Bill Casey’s Hornets were ranked No.1 in the state, but lost on a wild pitch by junior Joe Vetrano, who will make it his mission to get back to states in 2020 after leading them to the state finals in 2018. Regardless of the loss to M-E, it’s been another historic campaign for five-time sectional champ Lakeland, which repeated for the first time ever in 2019. As I hear it, there were lessons to be learned from the loss to Maine-Endwell: Lakeland discovered that not everybody plays with the class they do under Coach Casey. Don’t stoop, don’t ever stoop, and the cream will rise again…
If you saw former MAHOPAC ace Brendan White pitch for the Indians back in 2016, you were lucky enough to see what a pit bull looks like in a human body. White wasn’t overly powerful on the mound, had better-than-average stuff but mostly gutted his way to a 1.30 career ERA over two varsity seasons. He whiffed 40 batters in 48 innings at Mahopac and found his way to Siena where the first team All-MAAC selection fired three brilliant campaigns before being selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 26th Round of the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft last week.
The 5’11” 185-pound RHP becomes the 26th Major League Baseball draft pick in Siena College history. Through his junior season, White ranks third all-time at Siena in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.91), fourth in games started (44), tied for fourth in strikeouts (192) and tied for 10th in complete games (12). He amassed 12 victories over his three seasons while posting an overall ERA of 3.93.
But it was his 2019 season that caught the eye of MLB scouts, which were drawn in by the following: White ranks tied for second nationally with six complete games, and finished second in the MAAC in ERA (3.00), tied for third in strikeouts (93), and fourth in innings pitched (90.0). The 93 K’s is a Siena single-season record.
“It’s surreal, that’s really all I can say about it,” White said of being drafted. “It’s definitely tough to describe the feelings from it all. Just surreal and I’m at a loss of words.”
Former Mahopac baseball Coach Chris Miller called it, “An amazing accomplishment, I couldn’t be happier for him.”
So, we asked Miller: To be totally honest, when he left Mahopac, did you see a prospective MLB draft pick or just a bulldog pitcher who would have a fine college career and then move on in life?
“In all honesty, I didn’t think he was MLB material at that time,” Miller said. “He was a definite bulldog. He was awesome in high school, absolutely dominant in every outing his senior year. I didn’t think he threw hard enough for MLB, but three years later with an unbelievable work ethic, he raised his velocity while keeping his accuracy and breaking stuff.
“All of this couldn’t happen to a better kid,” Miller added. “He did it the Mahopac way, just like C.J. Riefenhauser (drafted in the 20th round in 2010 out of Chipola Junior College) did. No matter what happened, I knew he would be successful because of that work ethic.”
Lo’ and behold, the coach was right…
That was the Noah Syndergaard NY Mets fans became enamored with last Sunday in his finest outing of the season (7 IP, 1 hit, 7 K’s); a 6-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. If the once-slumping Thor and reigning Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom can get it going at the top of the rotation like they have in the past, the N.L. East is still there for the taking (pipe dream, I know!)…
Isn’t great to take an optimistic approach and acknowledge all that is good in life whenever possible, a glass-half-full mentality. I just wish the mainstream media; its anti-Trump pundits, and the lunatic fringe felt the same way #Winning!