BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - Coach Craig Gorton has watched his baseball team grow with his son -- perhaps a bit shaky four years ago, then a little stronger the year after that. Last year, Smithtown Christian reached the state tournament for the first time in school history before losing to Hancock in a semifinal.
So how about Saturday's state Class D final at SUNY Broome against old rival Hancock? How about Timmy Gorton's final varsity game -- the culmination of years of growth and grooming, not just for him, but for the nascent baseball team that proved it could play with just about anyone?
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You could say Smithtown Christian has graduated.
Gorton's two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning broke a tie at 2 to help the Knights defeat the Wildcats, 7-3, to win the first state baseball title in school history.
Jake DiNozzi allowed six hits, struck out seven and retired the side in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings in a complete-game victory.
Gorton also had a two-run double in a semifinal.
"It's amazing," Gorton said. "From the time I was a freshman [till] now, there's been so much growth in this program because of my dad and the coaches and the players, and it's really nice to bring it home for some of the guys who really started this program."
Vinny Ciaravino knocked in the second run of the game on a fielder's choice and added two more RBIs with a sixth-inning double to rightfield. The Knights led 5-3 going into the sixth.
"Ever since I was in ninth grade, the program really progressed," said DiNozzi, a senior, whose slick changeup helped him squirm out of jams in the first and sixth innings. "This has been great."
The Knights (16-3), though, were able to get as far as they did thanks to another clutch performance by Jack Palma in the team's semifinal earlier in the day. Palma tossed a five-hitter and the Knights had a four-run fourth inning in defeating Batavia Notre Dame High School, 7-1.
"We were a little tense in our last game and we made it a point to make sure we weren't all tense [in the semi] and it worked," said Glen Luke Middendorf, who was 3-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored. Smithtown Christian scored twice in the first, sparked by Middendorf's leadoff walk, and led 6-0 going into the sixth.
Palma struck out five.
"I was staying ahead of hitters and making sure that I focused on each pitch and pitching my game," he said. "It feels great. We did beat a couple of teams that were ahead of us and we just came together as a team. We competed. This team can do anything if we play our game."
Saturday, they finally proved it.