SEYMOUR >> Generations from Oxford and Seymour played together, won hundreds of games and a few championships together. But the days the Valley old timers love to reminisce about are long gone.
Seymour and Oxford are rivals now and, with bragging rights and a possible state baseball championship on the line, these schools didn’t come to French Park for a reunion. This was strictly business.
Maybe it was a little personal, too.
Oxford saw its run as defending Class S champions end a few rounds early thanks to Seymour pitcher Nick Kuzia, who threw a complete-game, three-hitter that lifted the Wildcats to a 1-0 victory at French Memorial Park in the state tournament’s second round Tuesday.
Though Oxford hasn’t sent students to Seymour since opening its high school doors seven years ago, the communities remain intertwined. Next season Oxford will join Seymour in the NVL. Seymour coach Bob Kelo is an assistant on Oxford’s football team. The students see each other regularly and the athletes often find themselves on the same youth teams.
So this meant more than just a state tournament win.
“Knowing kids (on the other team)… it’s good because, coming in, you want to beat them so you can tell them the next day, ‘We beat you guys. You’re done,’” said Kuzia, a tall righty who will play baseball at junior college powerhouse Herkimer (N.Y.) next season.
“It’s better to beat your friends than somebody you don’t know.”
Seymour, the No. 4 seed, advances to face No. 21 Trinity Catholic in the state quarterfinals Friday at French Park.
But were it not for a few big defensive plays, it just as easily could have been Oxford moving on.
Kuzia started the game by hitting the lead-off batter, walking another and surrendering a single to Tim Stordy to load the bases with one out. But Kuzia got Nick Loschiavo to ground into a double play at second base to end the threat.
“I came out and, to be honest, I wasn’t ready,” Kuzia said. “…I knew my off-speed wasn’t there and I had to control that. Once I did, I was fine.”
Kuzia struck out six, walked two and improved to 10-1.
“(Kuzia) gutted it out. That was not his best stuff,” Kelo said. “Him coming out not ready to go was surprising, but we kind of lucked out with the double pay there.”
Seymour, meanwhile, managed just five hits against Oxford starter Matt Gramesty (4-4). The Cats scored their only run in the bottom of the first on Zach Sirowich’s RBI infield single.
From there, Gramesty pitched four scoreless innings before giving way to all-stater Kyle Chudoba with two outs in the sixth.
The sophomore, who in the preseason convinced coach Brian Hourigan to give him a shot and became Oxford’s No. 2 pitcher behind Chudoba, left to a round of applause.
“He did everything and more,” Hourigan said. “We just couldn’t get the big hit in the right spot. …Most of the credit should go to their pitcher. He was lights out.”
Oxford had one last chance in the top of the sixth. But Kuzia got Nick Loschiavo to fly out to strand the tying run on third base. The Wolverines went down in order in the seventh and Seymour was off to the quarterfinals.
“Yeah, there were a lot of little side things (going on),” Kelo said of the budding rivalry. “But you know me, all I care about is we didn’t run the bases very well. We had plenty of chances to score more runs Lack of hustle in some areas… we did all the things that, somewhere down the road is going to cost you a game.”
OXFORD 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
SEYMOUR 100 000 x — 1 5 0
Matt Gramesty (L, 4-3), Kyle Chudoba (6) and Jimmy Husar; Nick Kuzia (W, 10-1) and Jaylen Kelley.
Records: Seymour 20-5, Oxford 13-10