Fredonia used 14 unanswered runs to open its playoff run in grand fashion, a 14-2 win over Gowanda, Tuesday in the Section 6 Class B-2 quarterfinals.
It was the No. 8 Panthers who hit the scoreboard first with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning.
After Fredonia starter Weston Ley recorded two quick outs, Ryan Boutelle drew a walk. Alex Sternisha then hit a chopper in front of the mound that Ley was late getting to, but fired to first anyway and his throw sailed wide and out of play. Each runner was awarded two bases, which allowed Boutelle to come home with the first run of the game.
OBSERVER?Photo by Craig Harvey
Gowanda’s Ryan Boutelle delivers a pitch during Tuesday’s Section 6 Class B-2 quarterfinal high school baseball game.
Gowanda's next hitter, Nick Huffman, stroked a single into center field to bring home Sternisha for the 2-0 lead.
The Hillbillies responded in their half of the first.
Boutelle retired speedy leadoff hitter Nick Hart on a groundout, but allowed a single to Trent Thompson, an RBI double to Zach Buckley and a single to Connor Farnham.
After Farnham stole second base, Ley hit a grounder right to second baseman Chase Williams, but the ball caroomed off his glove and allowed both Buckley and Farnham to come around to score and give Fredonia a 3-2 lead.
"We had good at-bats," Fredonia coach Vince Gullo said. "We had great base-running and contributions from five or six different guys."
Ley, meanwhile, shook off his first inning hiccup and proceeded to slam the door on any chance Gowanda had of scoring. He tossed six-plus innings, giving up just the two runs on five hits and five walks. He recorded four strikeouts and leaned on his air-tight defense.
"For a sophomore, he's really come on strong," Gullo added of Ley. "He tries so hard. It's pretty impressive to do what he did today."
Fredonia's bats gave Ley a little breathing room with three more runs in the second inning. No. 9 batter A.J. Riforgiat smacked an RBI single and the Hillbillies took advantage of a couple Gowanda errors - a common theme throughout the game.
"The key to pitching," Gowanda coach Tim Smith explained, "is make pitches and let your defense make plays. I think we had nine errors. That's not making plays."
Gowanda continued to hand Fredonia runs in the third inning. Already down, 6-2, Gowanda made four errors behind new pitcher Nick Jackson that led to five more runs.
The Hillbillies punished the Panthers for their mistakes with consecutive RBI singles from Cam Voss, Riforgiat and Hart. By the time the third inning was over, all nine Fredonia starters had scored at least one run.
"That's the sign of a good team when everyone can contribute," Gullo pointed out. "If somebody's having a bad day, someone else can pick him up."
"We've really struggled to find a dominant pitcher all year," Smith continued. "We really haven't had a number one pitcher. We'd ride the hot hand. They really didn't throw bad. Collectively, the pitching has been good all year."
The pitching was about all that was going right for Gowanda. The defense continued to struggle badly and the offense wasn't able to get anything going against Ley.
"We don't hit the ball very hard," Smith said. "Fredonia was hitting the ball hard. You're not really putting pressure on the defense if you're just hitting dribblers. We hit more dribblers today than not."
Nate Draeggert, the third Gowanda pitcher, was able to contain Fredonia's offense over the final three innings.
The exception was a mammoth fifth-inning two-run triple off the bat of Buckley. Great hustle in the outfield was all that kept Buckley from coming around for an inside-the-park home run.
"He's hitting well over .500 this year," Gullo said of his catcher. "If he gets his pitch he can drive it ... We expect him to produce runs and he did a great job today."
Gowanda loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh inning, which prompted Gullo to bring in senior Farnham to close it out on the mound.
Farnham did just that, inducing an infield pop-out and a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
For Gowanda, the loss ended what has to be considered a successful season.
"When I look back at it and see we went .500, I guess that's a good thing," Smith said. "I don't think we overachieved, but I expected a better effort today for sure.
"I'm proud of my seniors," he continued. "Al Sternisha, Nick Huffman and Nick Jackson have been great pieces to the program over the last two and three years. It will be tough to see them go because they really worked at it this year."
Fredonia will play CCAA Division 1 rival Southwestern, at home on Friday, in Section 6 Class B-2 semifinal action.
NOTES: Thompson and Riforgiat each recorded a pair of hits for Fredonia. Hart scored three runs while Buckley doubled, tripled and drove in three ... Sternisha and Boutelle each reached base three times for Gowanda.