Wednesday's varsity baseball game between Dunkirk and Fredonia lacked its normal excitement and energy level from both the fans and players.
And that's not usually something you can say when Dunkirk and Fredonia meet, no matter the sport, or the
teams' respective records.
Fredonia’s Mike Pucci makes contact with a pitch during Wednesday’s CCAA?West I baseball game against archrival Dunkirk. Marauders’ coach Frank Jagoda looks on in the background.
Perhaps the weather played a part. Although it was sunny, the temperatures were cold. It may have also had something to do with the fact that it was the first game for both teams.
"I think it's happened one time before since I've been coaching, which is a long time now," Dunkirk coach Frank Jagoda said of opening the season against Fredonia. "It's kind of different. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be any sense of urgency by either team (Wednesday)."
There was no league or sectional title on the line like in seasons past, but it is still hard to imagine that the players weren't into the game as much as players in other years have been.
For Dunkirk, it was a little easier to understand why the players lacked a more normal amount of energy and spirit, as Fredonia built a 5-0 lead after the first two innings.
"Fredonia's first three or four hitters in the lineup were outstanding," Jagoda said. "And then (Mike) Pucci had the big hit that gave them a better cushion. But I didn't think there was any sense of urgency at all. And here's an opportunity where we can make a statement right at the beginning of the season and we just weren't ready to battle."
But Marauder freshman Tyreek Ruiz came in and shut down the Hillbillies from the third inning on and his team had its own opportunities to get back in the game both mentally and on the scoreboard. Unfortunately for Dunkirk, it was never able to push any runs across against Fredonia starter Weston Ley or reliever Noah Voss, who combined to strike out 19 Marauders on the afternoon.
"I thought we'd hit better," Jagoda said. "I'm very disappointed with how we hit in the later innings. Simply because I thought we could have stayed back (on the pitches) a little better and we could have put the ball where we wanted. We were just over-swinging at stuff that just wasn't strikes."
Fredonia coach Vince Gullo agreed with some of Jagoda's sentiments.
"There was no intensity (Wednesday) by either team," Gullo said. "Both teams are so young and I don't think half the guys have experienced a Dunkirk-Fredonia baseball game before."
Although the younger players have undoubtedly played against each other before, whether it be Little League, modified or jayvees, games at the varsity level can be an entirely different animal. But Gullo even went so far as to intimate that the demeanor of himself and Jagoda may have played a part, as well.
"Both coaches (Wednesday), Frank and I, were both laid back, patient and teaching," Gullo said. "We're both trying to figure out our teams right now. But yeah, it was way different. It wasn't your typical game and I'm sure the next time around the teams will be a little more heated."
Dunkirk and Fredonia fans can only hope that Gullo is right, that the next time the teams play - which will be Monday, May 5 - the old fighting spirit exhibited by both sides in this heated rivalry will return.