OBSERVER Staff Report
GOWANDA - Gowanda won a pair of CCAA Division 1 baseball games over Falconer on Saturday, the first in walk-off fashion, 4-3, and the second a bit easier, 8-1.
"Considering the way the weather was when I woke up, I never thought we'd be playing," Gowanda head coach Tim Smith said. "But I know that based on the schedule and what it looked like for the next couple of weeks, Falconer and us both wanted to get the games in."
What helped the Panthers was the pitching they got from Joe Kruszka in the first game and Walker Cygan in the second, who both tossed complete games.
"I was prepared to use five or six guys," Smith said. "So to get out of there only using two guys, and having a pitch count of 78 and 68, was really huge to keep everybody fresh going into another long week of league games."
Joe Kruszka allowed three runs on 10 hits while striking out five and walking two while Cygan allowed a run on five hits while striking out six and walking one.
What was impressive to Smith was the fact that his pitchers combined to issue just three walks and hit batsman, when earlier this week Gowanda pitchers allowed a combined 24 walks and hit batsmen against CCAA Division 1 foes Allegany-Limestone and Dunkirk.
"What was great about the first game was that Joe Kruszka stopped the bleeding for us you could say," Smith said. "He walked two guys and the big thing was what we talked about for the last two days. And that was to go out and throw strikes and know that he has a defense behind him. And he did that. Our defense played well and kept us in the game the whole time. We battled back and tied it up in the sixth and then won the game in the seventh."
The Panthers won the game in walk-off fashion after Chase Williams, who led off with a single and stole second, scored on a throwing error by the Golden Falcons' shortstop.
"Winning it in the bottom of the seventh was real nice for our guys," Smith said. "And we probably took that momentum right on through to the second game."
Down 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth in the first game, Ryan Boutelle led off with a single, stole second and moved to third on a Cygan flyout. He later came around to score the tying run on a Cole Dailey RBI sacrifice fly.
Falconer opened up a 2-0 lead on an RBI singles by Nathan Burnett in the second and Stuart Gibson in the third.
Gowanda scored its first run in the bottom of the third on a Jon McCarthy single, before tying the game in the fourth after Cygan tripled with one out and scored on a Dailey sacrifice fly.
"They came out strong," Smith said of his team. "I think once they actually got warmed up in the game - and it took a while to kind of shake that off - but once they started playing, it was a pretty tight baseball game all the way through."
Willams finished 3-for-3 with two runs scored while McCarthy finished 2-for-3 with an RBI. A.J. Genco had three hits for Falconer while teammates Michael Wilcox (RBI) and Gibson each had two hits.
The Panthers were the visiting team in the second game and got out to a quick start to take a 6-1 lead after two innings.
"Going up by five runs after two innings was big," Smith said. "But probably the biggest thing coming out of that was the fact that Walker Cygan walked just one batter. He did hit one batter in the game, so (he allowed) two free baserunners. But it's a huge contrast to what we had Monday and Wednesday this week."
Boutelle had an RBI triple to get the Panthers on the board while Cygan had an RBI fielder's choice and Williams scored Dailey with an RBI single.
After the Golden Falcons' Schwab picked up an RBI on a ground out in the bottom of the first, Gowanda got back to work as it scored three runs on a two-run single off the bat of Boutelle and an RBI single from Cygan.
"It was really a continuation of the same thing," Smith said. "What was nice was we came out there in the first inning and threw up three runs in the top of the first. After probably what was, psychologically speaking, a pretty tough loss to lose in the seventh inning ... To come out there and put up three runs in the first inning was big. They did answer with a run in the bottom of the first, but that proved to be the only run that they would score."
Gowanda's final two runs came in the top of the fifth on RBI singles from Williams and Justin Grimm.
Boutelle finished the second game of the doubleheader with two hits and three RBIs, Cygan had a trio of hits and two RBIs and Matt Kruszka scratched out a pair of hits.