With the way the Class C playoffs lined up, Haldane coach Tom Virgadamo knew he would need only one starter unless his team reached the regional final. With two pitchers who had thrown like aces all season, he was forced to have a difficult conversation.
"It's tough from a coaching standpoint to tell your two No. 1s which guy is going, and which guy is not going," Virgadamo said. "Dan (Kinnaird) is a senior, and (Ryan) Koval will be that guy next year."
Koval patiently waited his turn (he did get the save in the section final win over Tuckahoe), and when he got his chance in the regional final against Pierson-Bridgehampton (Section 11) on Wednesday at Manhattanville College, he did not disappoint.
The junior right-hander hurled a three-hitter, walking just one while striking out five in a 3-0 win to clinch the fourth regional title in Blue Devils history. It was the second shutout in a row after Kinnaird did not allow a run in the semifinal against Tri-Valley on Tuesday.
"I felt so loose today," Koval said. "It was the loosest I felt all year. Everything was working well -- the curveball was breaking, the slider was moving, the changeup down and in, and the fastball was blowing away guys."
While Koval was cruising on the mound, he was also getting it done at the plate.
In the bottom of the first, Koval legged out an infield single with two outs to score Matt Forlow. In the third inning he added another two-out RBI single to extend the lead to 2-0.
"Coach pounds into our head: 'You have to think two out of the box,' " Koval said. "You have to hustle every time, and good things will happen."
Despite Koval's clutch hits, the Blue Devils consistently stranded runners for the remainder of the game. Other than Forlow scoring from third on a throwing error in the sixth, Haldane left a total of 10 runners on base.
"It's little things like that that can haunt us on Saturday," Virgadamo said. "If we do those things and move base runners up, I think we're going to be a tough team to beat."
The Blue Devils will play Voorheesville (Section 2) in the state semifinals on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Johnson City High School. Haldane has never won a state title.