Bears hunting for state baseball title
Get instant updates from the state final four in Twitter: @MSGVarsityKDJ
Coach: John Consorti
At MacArthur Park, Binghamton
Briarcliff vs. Section 2’s Albany Academy, 10 a.m.
Section 4’s Oneonta vs. Section 5’s Wayland-Cohocton/Section 6’s Fredonia, 1 p.m. Championship
Semifinal winners, 4 p.m.
Postseason MVP: Paul Henshaw, Sr., P/1B. It’s tough to pick just one MVP for the Bears but Henshaw has had a superb postseason. He’s gone 3-0 on the mound with complete-game wins in the Section 1 Class B final and NYS Class B regional finals. The senior also has lead Briarcliff with nine RBI through six postseason games.
John Fussell, Sr., 3B: The senior cleanup hitter is consistently being pitched around but still finds a way to put up big numbers. He almost single handedly helped Briarcliff win their regional semifinal against Spackenkill with four RBI. He’s batting .458 with 31 RBI, 33 hits and 24 runs scored this year.
Paul Henshaw, Sr., P/1B. Henshaw brings a big bat and is a control pitcher that knows how to get batters out. He’s sporting an average of .352 with 37 RBI and 29 runs scored. On the hill, he’s gone 8-0 with a 2.22 ERA through 60 innings.
Spencer Kulman, Jr., P. Kulman, a power pitcher with a strong curveball, has really come into this own this season and has developed into a No. 1A type of starting pitcher. He’s gone 8-2 with a 1.96 ERA and has 67 strikeouts in 57 innings pitched. He’s also done it with his bat, socking three home runs to go with 19 RBI, 24 hits and 22 runs scored.
Ryan Huegel, Jr., CF. The senior centerfielder covers a ton of ground in the outfield with his speed. He’s also a strong leadoff hitter that consistently gets on base for the big bats. He’s batting .316 with 29 runs scored, 25 hits and 11 RBI.
Colin Orr, Sr., C. Orr is a solid catcher and is one of the leaders of the team. He bats third in the order and has 23 RBI, 23 hits and 31 runs scored this year.
Scouting the state semifinals
Last season the Briarcliff Bears got a taste of what the Class B state championship game was like. The Bears fell behind early and couldn’t overcome a seven-run deficit against Chenango Valley.
Now Briarcliff is back in the state final four. And this year they don’t just want a taste – they want the whole thing.
“I feel like we’re a lot more confident this year,” said Briarcliff senior catcher Colin Orr, whose team rallied for 12 runs in the sixth to beat Babylon in the regional finals. “We know we can win up there. Even though we lost in the finals (last year) we know that was a winnable game. Every game, if we come to play, we know we can win. Basically, we’ve got to take home a state championship this year.”
Briarcliff squares off against Section 2’s Albany Academy in the Class B state semifinals on Saturday at 10 a.m. at MacArthur Park’s Conlon Field in Binghamton.
The Cadets are 19-5 and are led on the mound by Ben Brown (6-2, 1.98 ERA). Catcher Tyler Hynes (.448, 21 RBI) and shortstop Justin Brock (.455, 40 hits, 31 runs scored) spark the offense.
If they win their semifinal game with Albany Academy they’ll play at 4 p.m. at Conlon Field for the state championship.
Briarcliff’s lineup is dangerous from top to bottom and is regarded as one of the best in Section 1. They’re averaging 8.3 runs per game this season.
“There really aren’t holes,” junior shortstop Louis Carrafiello said. “We not only have good bats, but we’ve got speed in our lineup. We have a lot of guys that do multiple things. We like to bunt a lot. It makes it very tough and puts a lot of pressure on pitchers.”
Replacing staff ace Josh Miller from last year’s state title run was supposed to be difficult for the Bears, but junior Spencer Kulman has stepped up big time and senior Paul Henshaw has been his steady self.
“Every game they step on the hill we know we’re going to have a chance to win,” Orr said.
Briarcliff won its first and only state title in 1998 when they were in Class D.
“Everyone’s hungry,” Carrafiello said. “You don’t get too many second chances in life. We’ve got a second chance at something this big and we want to take full advantage.”