Panthers look for return trip to states

For the second time in three years, the Pine Valley Panthers are heading to Batavia’s Dwyer Stadium in the Class D Far West Regional game to take on Lyndonville at 4:30 p.m. today.

The Panthers are hoping this time things will be different as they lost to the Tigers, 12-6, in 2011.

In that game, Pine Valley committed five errors.

“They took advantage of all of our errors,” Pine Valley coach Chris Buczek recalled.

“They had some shots to the outfield. What I remember is getting there and just being off a little bit. Their pitching wasn’t overpowering. We just didn’t capitalize in many situations. We were up and the screws fell off.”

Spencer Sticek, Lucas Trombley and Tyler Swanson were all members of that team and will be looked upon to play key roles today – especially Swanson, who has become a key reason for Pine Valley’s success through the playoffs.

When asked how Pine Valley made it to the Far West Regionals for the third time in as many years since last year’s game was played at Diethrick Park, Buczek didn’t hesitate to respond.

“Tyler Swanson’s right arm,” he declared. “Throughout the run, he has been able to focus more on what’s at hand, instead of worrying about the next game. He knows the game is his and the team behind him is back there to make plays. He is the one driving the bus for us. He has found his focus. The people on the field are playing better behind him.”

Today’s trip to Batavia will mark the fourth Far West Regional visit in five years, and Pine Valley is hoping to win its second in as many years for a trip to Binghamton and the Final Four.

“I think we play our best baseball late in the season,” Buczek noted. “That’s where our success has come from. Baseball teams at Pine Valley have been good for so long, the kids recognize that and want to fulfill that. They want to keep being a good team and being on top of that.”

Lyndonville caught Section 5 by surprise as it went unranked in the New York State Sportswriter’s Association polls all season and upset No. 11 Batavia Notre Dame in the Class D championship game. Meanwhile, Pine Valley has gone through the season consistently in the top 10 and enters today’s contest as the No. 9 ranked team in the state.

“They are very talented,” Buczek said. “The coach was quoted as saying they have five sophomores. I think they are young and surprised to be at this point. I don’t know too much. Their ace is a lefty who throws bullets. It makes it tough because you can’t find flaws and gameplan around a bad outfielder or first baseman. A couple kids have said they prefer playing teams they don’t know anything about. It works in our favor and it works in their favor. There are so many intangibles.”

Buczek noted this year’s team has found success because they are “living in the moment” and are excited.

“Any field they play on, they are excited where they are at,” he said. “They just appreciate that. There are not a lot of teams playing right now and they appreciate they are one of them. They are excited about being in the spot they are in. We are finding ways to manufacture runs.

“We embrace the fact we are the only Section 6 team playing in Class D. We are walking in as the underdog. All the chips are against us. I am proud of these guys.”