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ONONDAGA — For the second straight year, Auburn Baseball sat idly by and watched another team collect championship medals.

The Maroons, who have appeared in back-to-back Section III Class A championships, fell 9-1 to Cortland in this year’s finals.

The loss adds another year to Auburn’s title drought, which dates back to 2014. Coach John Turcsik said when a team comes this far only to lose “it hurts”.

“Knowing that you’re so close and can taste it is definitely a hard pill to swallow,” Turcsik said. “But if you had told us at first practice that we would be back in a section championship after the seniors we lost last year, I might not have believed it.

“These guys came together… and their drive, heart and tenacity brought us back to this point. It wasn’t easy coming back and I’m proud of the lads for what they did. We just fell a little short. “

Auburn’s forte all season has been his pitching depth, and the Maroons needed every bit of that depth to get through top-seeded Whitesboro on Saturday.

While the price of that win was worth it, it meant starter Lucas West was unavailable for the championship. Sophomore Owen Birchard, another pitcher to hit heavy innings this year, was unavailable on the mound due to an injury he sustained earlier in the sections.

Against Cortland, Auburn turned to left-hander Cooper Polcovich, who missed the last game and was battling an illness of his own.

After two uneventful innings for their offense, the Tigers hit five runs with six hits in the third against Polcovich, with an RBI triple from Max Gambitta opening the floodgates.

Ultimately, that inning was a sign that the teenage Maroons’ pitching team, while brimming with potential and skill, was simply out of gas.

“Coop wasn’t at his full strength today, but he gave everything for us,” said Turcsik. “He went out there struggling with arm pain and gave us his best and that’s all we can ask for. That the guys give us a chance and he went out and did that for us. We were a little tight-handed pitching and Cortland was swinging the bats well.”

Before Cortland took a 5-0 lead in game three, the Maroons had several chances to score the opener.

In the first, Kevin reached Dolan with a one-out walk and advanced to second with a groundout before a fly-out ended the inning.

Auburn then touched down the first two runners in the second when Mac Maher singled and Jason Irwin walked. While Maher was eventually able to move up to third place, the Maroons eluded another hit to get the run.

It wasn’t until the sixth inning that Auburn scored another goal against Tiger’s right-hander Kooper Knabe. Dolan started this frame with a double, moved up to third with a groundout and hit with Jayden DeAngeli’s sacrificial fly.

Dolan’s two-bagger was Auburn’s only extra base hit and one of two that night. A stark contrast to Cortland’s lineup of stompers, which spawned 14 hits.

Offense has plagued the Maroons in every one of those title game appearances. Last year against CBA, Auburn managed eight goals but was ruled out.

A reversal of this trend may be required to clear the hump.

“We had to do a great job today to have a chance and unfortunately our racquets didn’t go through,” said Turcsik. “Their pitcher was tough and often overpowered our batsmen. We were either late or didn’t have close contact. We have to put in a lot of work in the off-season to get bigger and hopefully look like Cortland’s big boys again next year.”

While a return to the section championship in 2022 might have seemed contradictory given Auburn’s relative youth, the standard has now been set for a more experienced team in 2023.

The Maroons lose only one starting player to closure — Dolan, the shortstop and one of the team’s most prolific hitters — but otherwise return the entire roster, including the promising pitching staff.

“Kevin is a great boy. He’s a kid you’ll always have in the lineup and he’ll always go out and produce for you,” Turcsik said. “I said to the guys, ‘Take him as an example to learn from him.’ He is a special child and a child we will miss.

“We’re really excited about the staff we’ll be bringing back next year. There are many young poor and many living poor. I think we have a great opportunity ahead of us.”


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