Two wins away: DWS baseball team closes in on state title

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Davis Moore wasn't about to get sentimental.

Moore and six other Knights seniors had just walked off "The Bump" after the final practice of their high school career, which has included just about everything but a state title in baseball.

"I hadn't really thought about it honestly," Moore said of his last practice at Deerfield-Windsor.

The Knights, of course, have their eyes set on more important things.

"It doesn't feel bad knowing we're playing for a state championship," said DWS senior Banks Kinslow, who has won state titles in every sport he's played -- basketball, football, track -- but not in baseball.

Like Kinslow, Moore has also won titles in football and track, but both are saving room on the mantle for that GISA Class AAA baseball state title hardware.

"For me, that's all that's missing," Moore said.

The Knights will get the chance to fill that void today when they face nemesis Westfield School in Game 1 of the championship series in Perry beginning at 5:30 p.m. Game 2 will be played Saturday at 2 p.m., followed by Game 3 if necessary.

The Hornets, though, will have the bragging rights coming in. Westfield, which topped Deerfield for the Region 3-AAA crown this season, beat the Knights twice in the regular season by one run each time.

Head coach Rod Murray's message Thursday was simple.

"Just to finish it," Murray said of what he told his kids after their final practice. "Both times we had an opportunity to win. (Westfield) made the plays late in the game and figured out a way to beat us."

The Knights (20-6, Region 3-AAA No. 2 seed) have come alive at the plate in the playoffs, but Westfield (30-5, Region 3-AAA No. 1 seed) has been just as good. The Hornets scored 27 runs in a two-game sweep of Stratford in the semis, while Deerfield mostly used pitching to break the three-year hex with a sweep of Tattnall Square.

"They're pretty dangerous offensively," said Murray, who is in his second state title series in his fourth year at Deerfield. "Anytime you play a good offensive team you try to get ahead early in the count. You can't miss your spots against a team like this. They'll make you pay."

Kinslow, whose basketball and baseball teams fell to Westfield in region play this year, added, "They hit all up and down their lineup."

Deerfield lost a lead in their first meeting with Westfield at home and ended up falling in extra innings and then gave away a lead in the seventh inning in Perry and lost again. Even after those games, the Knights had a feeling they'd see the Hornets a third time.

"We told (Westfield) coach (Rob) Fitzpatrick, "There's a good chance we'll see you again,' " DWS assistant Ty Kinslow said. "And that's what happened."

Murray's first state title appearance three years ago began the temporary curse that Tattnall Square had on the Knights. Tattnall swept that championship series in Albany, but Deerfield came back this year to eliminate the Trojans, playing on the road in the playoffs for the first time in four years.

"Both teams (2008 and 2011) had some older guys that did a good job and were good leaders by how hard they worked," Murray said. "Both teams figured out what their roles were and settled into them."

The Knights just hope the difference in those two teams is that this one ends the season with a win. With so many returning seniors that have played together for years, anything less will be a disappointment.

"Devastated," Moore said after thinking about losing in the finals. "If we lost this it would bother me the rest of my life. It'll be fun (though). There's going to be a lot of people there. That's what I'm excited about is the atmosphere."