High School Baseball: Frontier hits skid but remains optimistic
When Frontier is going well, Mike Morlock and his Falcons believe they can beat any team in Western New York. But the final few weeks of the regular season did not go exactly as planned.
With only one game remaining before the playoffs — they hosted Hamburg on May 16, the Falcons lost four of six games to finish what had been a highly-anticipated ECIC Division I slate at 8-6 and in fourth place.
Frontier pulled out one-run wins at Lancaster and Jamestown, but also lost disappointing games to Sweet Home and West Seneca West, two of the teams at the bottom of the division standings, and fell by one run to defending sectional champion Clarence despite scoring 11 times. The Falcons began that stretch of six games on April 30, dropping a 4-1 game to Orchard Park, which finished tied as division champions with Lancaster and Clarence at 11-3. Five of the last six games were decided by two or less runs.
“When we hit, we can’t pitch and when we pitch, we can’t hit,” Morlock said. “And there’s been a lack of concentration on defense.”
“We’ve been very good at times, but we haven’t found a middle ground to be consistent,” he added. “When you score 11 against Clarence, you need to win the game.”
However, this stretch has not wiped away the optimism that peaked after a very good showing at a spring break tournament in Myrtle Beach and then again when Frontier won its first five of six games upon returning to Western New York.
“The guys still believe in this team,” Morlock said. “In Myrtle Beach, we played and beat better teams than we’ve seen up here, so they know they can do it. But saying that and doing that are two different things.”
The brunt of the load in the playoffs will fall on the left-handed arm of Steve Dziak, the team’s ace on the mound, who for most of the season has been difficult to hit, and on the bats of leadoff hitter and shortstop Mack Zeis and third-place hitter Blair Lakso, a first baseman and pitcher.
Morlock is hoping the bats on his senior-laden team show more consistency, while on the mound, he’ll use a staff by committee after Dziak. He has Lakso, Joe Duggan, Brandon Jewett and Connor Donahue as options. Morlock also plans to bring up a few arms from the junior varsity for the playoffs.
In an 11-9 loss at West Seneca West to end the league season, Frontier came all the way back from seven runs down to tie the game 8-8, but a two-out error in the sixth opened the door to a three-run inning for the host.
Donahue, the team’s clean-up hitter, finished with three hits, three RBI and two runs scored, blasting a double in Frontier’s four-run third and then a triple in its three-run fourth. Lakso added three hits and two runs scored and senior catcher Jacob Weiser contributed four RBI, including a double that scored two in the fourth. Senior outfielders Ryan Lease and Mike Harris also came through with RBI singles.
In relief, Duggan threw two innings without giving up a run and Dziak mowed down three straight hitters in the seventh with strikeouts.
The Falcons should be anywhere from a five to seven seed among 12 Class A schools in the playoffs and host a pre-quarterfinal on Tuesday, May 22. Among common division opponents of note, Frontier defeated a surprising Lancaster twice and but lost a pair of games to both Clarence and Orchard Park.
Lake Shore, Hamburg hoping to be in A-1 mix
It was a regular season of many pleasant surprises, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a degree of stress associated with a 6-6 ECIC II mark for Lake Shore.
Eagles head coach Bob Kowal has needed to use more pitchers in one season than he’s used to and some key errors may have cost his team a few games, but there have been plenty of positive step up efforts to make Lake Shore a legitimate contender come the Class A-1 Tournament next week.
The final week of the divisional season brought its ups and downs as well for the Eagles, who showed positive signs in a 5-3 loss to ECIC II champion Iroquois on May 9 and a 9-5 win over Williamsville South two days later, but reverted back to some bad habits in a 7-6 loss to West Seneca East.
Lake Shore started the week outhitting Iroquois 9-7 but the Chiefs’ three-run fifth inning, which was aided by a key error, and leaving the bases loaded three times was the Eagles undoing. Christ Conley, who got a rare start on the mound, notched two hits, including a home run that started a three-run third for Lake Shore. Matt Brzozwiec’s two-run single gave the Eagles a 3-2 lead. Lake Shore hit Iroquois standout hurler Zach Trumpler, who had one-hit the Eagles earlier in the season, but Kowal said his team wasn’t able to take advantage of its opportunities.
After allowing four runs to South in the first inning Friday, Kowal thought his team played very well over the final six innings of that game and then the first six innings in Lake Shore’s loss to East the next day. But after coming back to beat South, Lake Shore allowed four runs in the seventh, again aided by a key error, in falling to East.
“We played well against South after that first inning, but I was scared coming into the East game because they had played us tough the first time we played them this year (despite being at the bottom of the division standings),” Kowal noted.
Against South, Austin Van Slycke reached base all five times he batted, recording three hits, including a triple and double, and knocked in the winning run in the sixth, while Conley homered, doubled and reached base four times. Billy Pinter broke out at the plate with a 3 for 3 performance which included two triples. Tyler Freeman, who’s been clutch pitching in relief this season, threw three innings of one-hit baseball, along with executing a trick pick-off play which helped change the momentum of the game in the fifth with the score tied 5-5.
Van Slycke finished off a torrid 7 for 11 week at the plate with two hits to help Lake Shore build a 6-3 lead against East. Conley finished the division season, hitting an impressive .575. He’ll also be in the mix to pitch, along with sophomore shortstop Tyler Mascio, during the postseason. Kowal hopes the hard throwers raise Lake Shore’s strikeout totals, which could help a struggling defense.
“We need to play better defense up the middle,” Kowal said. “We’ve gone stretches without striking out a batter. That’s a lot of plays for our defense to have to make.”
Lake Shore will toss a coin for the fifth and sixth seeds in the upcoming sectional playoffs with Hamburg, which also finished at 6-6 and tied for third place in ECIC II. The two teams split their two regular season games.
The Bulldogs enter the playoffs as defending Class A champions but as a much younger team that, like Lake Shore, has been inconsistent.
Hamburg broke a three-game losing streak with wins over West Seneca East 3-0 in eight innings on May 9 and Williamsville South 5-4 the next day, but then fell flat in a 15-6 loss to Williamsville East on May 11 in its regular season division finale.
Senior Sam Hogan threw a complete-game with five strikeouts to lead Hamburg to the win over Williamsville East and Josh Palisano earned the victory on the mound as the Bulldogs pulled out an extra-inning affair with East.
St. Francis wins fourth straight, busy week ahead
St. Francis reeled off a fourth straight win to begin a string of seven games in eight days to end the regular season. The Red Raiders improved to 9-4 overall and 7-2 in Monsignor Martin play by beating Timon-St. Jude 4-2 on Monday (May 14).
A pair of sophomores led the Red Raiders in their most recent win. Andrew Krakowski continued a fine season on the mound, going the distance while scattering eight hits, and classmate Ryan Stefaniak carried on a hot bat of late, finishing with two hits and a run scored at the plate.
Despite leaving 12 men on base, St. Francis came away with a 5-2 win over Cardinal O’Hara two days earlier in a make-up game on May 12. Junior Sam Carroccia struck out eight and didn’t yield an earned run while picking up his first league win of the season. Stefaniak notched three hits and two RBI and junior Mike Prentice added two RBI.
In the game prior, St. Francis’ 5-1 win over Nichols on May 11, sophomore Matt Minnick struck out eight and didn’t allow an earned run as he picked up the win on the mound. Junior Matt Michalski finished with three hits and three RBI to lead the way offensively.
A game at St. Joe’s on Friday, May 18 ends a five-day stretch of league contests for the week. After playing Fredonia the next day and enjoying a day off on Sunday, the Red Raiders finish off their regular season hosting Canisius on May 21 in a rematch of the past six Georgetown Cup finals. St. Francis won the earlier season match-up 6-0.
N. Collins wins division title, remains unbeaten
North Collins clinched the regular season CCAA Division IV title with a 14-3 victory at Sherman on May 14. The Eagles improved to 11-0 in division play with their CCAA IV finale to be played May 16. The win pushes their overall record to 14-2. North Collins also bounced back from having its 12-game winning streak snapped in a 5-4 loss to Gowanda two days prior.
Brandon Luther allowed only three hits and struck out six in earning the win on the mound, while collecting two hits, including a double, and four RBI. Trey Bley finished with three hits, including two doubles, and four RBI. Kyle Sherman and Clayton Cerne each added hits and scored three times. Robbie Fera added two hits while Jaden Keough and Cody Feltz doubled.
In the three games prior, the powerhouse Eagles combined to outscore Brocton, Panama and Ripley 69-11 in a four-day stretch starting May 8.
Against Panama, North Collins pounded out 21 hits and pulled away in what was a 10-6 game after five innings. The Eagles had only beat Panama 7-6 in the first meeting between the two teams. Highlighting the winning effort was Trainor reaching base on all seven of his plate appearances. He was 3 for 3, including a three-run homer and a two-RBI double. Also in the win, Bley collected four hits and seven RBI; Cerne, four hits, four RBI and four runs scored; Jared Keppel, four hits and four RBI; and Sherman, three hits, four runs and five RBI.
Section VI tourney slate
The Section VI Tournament seeding meeting will take place Sunday (May 20) with Class A and B playoffs slated to get underway with pre-quarterfinals the next day (May 21) and Class AA, C and D on Tuesday (May 22).