YOUNGSTOWN — Connor Barleben is all about keeping his promises.
On his way to the plate in a tie game in the seventh inning, he told his coach: “I’ll get you the win.”
Sure enough the left-hander launched a solo home run over the fence in right field 330 feet away to give Albion a 2-1 win over Starpoint in the Section VI Class A title game at Lew-Port.
“I just told him I’d do it for him. We all wanted it,” Barleben said of his second homer of the season.
“I had two bad at-bats earlier in the game. I knew I had to step it up.”
The home run also made him the winner on the mound improving his record to 7-1. He threw 68 of his 108 pitches for strikes, struck out eight while scattering four hits.
The win was his sixth as a starter in sectional games in three varsity seasons. “I was just trying to get ahead of the batters,” Barleben said. “Earlier in the game my curve ball was getting away from me, but then I started hitting the spots with my pitches.”
Albion (17-2) advanced to the Far West Regionals on Saturday at Jamestown Diethrick’s Park at 7 p.m. The Purple Eagles will play Section V power Pittsford-Sutherland.
Albion won the Niagara-Orleans League with a 13-1 record, the only to Akron. It’s other loss was a nonleaguer to Class AA Lockport.
Albion took a 1-0 lead just three batters into the game when catcher John Warne, lined a home run over the fence in left field.
“It was a 1-0 pitch, I knew I was going to get a fastball. I knew it was gone, it came off nice,” said Warne.
The battery of Barleben and Warne have a history of delivering in big games for Albion.
Besides homering in this game, both seniors have three sectional patches, and both will be continuing their careers at Genesee Community College.
Their leadership will be very difficult to replace.
“We’re best friends,” Barleben said of his catcher. “If I throw a pitch in the dirt, he’ll block it, if a runner tries to steal, he’ll throw him out. I have 100 percent trust in him.”
Warne’s solo shot stood up until the Starpoint fourth inning. Brett Guay drew a one-out walk. He came around to score on a bloop single by Mike Kane, which dropped in front of the left fielder.
Starpoint’s starting pitcher Mike Lane turned in a solid performance. He pitched a three-hitter with six strikeouts, one walk and threw 58 strikes among his 96 pitches. Starpoint ended its season 13-6.
“Looking back, this was a phenomenal game,” said Starpoint coach Tim Racey. “Sometimes a 17-6 or 18-5 game can get lost in the shuffle. This was 2-1 — an old-fashioned baseball game.
“They got two runs, we had to work for our run. It just didn’t work out for us. It’s kind of tough, we have five seniors and it will be hard to see them go.”
Albion coach Bruce Blanchard is familiar with the baseball tradition at Pittsford-Sutherland. They beat Albion on its way to the state title in 2010 and have won 12 Section V titles since 2001.
Whether Barleben will ready to start on Saturday is a question Blanchard couldn’t quite answer. “We’ll see how he feels, he may not start, but he will be able to help us,” he said. “He’s thrown 104 and 108 pitches in his last two games. He’s a tough kid, but we don’t want to hurt him.”