JAMESTOWN — Perhaps it was because victory had set in long ago, or because the players had done it before, but the celebration was distinctly tame after Fredonia recorded the final out of its baseball championship on a drizzly Wednesday evening at Diethrick Park.
Fist bumps and handshakes seemed to suffice after the Hillbillies cruised past Gowanda, 10-3, to win the Section VI Class B championship, checking off another box en route to a defense of their state title.
“It’s good to know they didn’t get overly crazy for this win, because we have another game to play Saturday,” Fredonia coach Vince Gullo said.
His team will travel to Batavia on Saturday for a 5 p.m. game against Section V champion Livonia in the Far West Regional at Dwyer Stadium.
With a win there, Fredonia will advance to the state championships on June 14 at Binghamton University.
To be successful there, Fredonia will need to keep hitting like it did Wednesday.
Cam Voss went 5 for 5 with three RBIs to lead the offensive surge while the team cranked out 15 hits after struggling at the plate in previous games. Pitcher Weston Ley helped himself with three hits and three runs while Lucas Voss added three RBIs.
The Hillbillies blew the game open with five runs in the fourth inning as they batted around and chased Gowanda starter Joe Kruszka, who gave up 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings while striking out three and walking seven.
Gowanda had its chance to rally in the sixth, loading the bases with no outs. Josh Balzer scored Chase Williams on a ground out and Carter Benton brought in Cole Dailey on a sacrifice fly, but center fielder Tyler DiRusso hit Ley on the cutoff and Fredonia was able to catch Josh Mitchell off second base for a double play, ending the rally at 10-3.
“That’s why we hit cutoffs!” Fredonia coach Vince Gullo screamed in excitement as his team jogged into the dugout, safe from danger.
Gowanda was hitless with runners in scoring position.
“We picked a bad day to have a bad game,” said Gowanda coach Tim Smith, whose team was charged with four errors. “Too many walks, too many free baserunners, and a lot of them scored. That was probably the difference in the game.”
Ley recovered nicely after giving up the run in the first inning. He scattered five hits and struck out four while keeping Gowanda off the board again until the seventh inning despite admitting to not having his “A” game.
“I couldn’t locate my fastball worth anything,” Ley said. “This is probably the first game I’ve won without having my fastball.”
Ley was able to keep Gowanda at bay with his off-speed pitches and thanked his defense for making several big plays.
“That’s what we needed,” he said, “kids to step up in the field.”
Fredonia will play in the Far West Regional for the third consecutive year. The Hillbillies defeated Wayland-Cohocton, 2-0, last year. Ace Cam Voss will be Fredonia’s starting pitcher on Saturday.