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For Fredonia seniors Nick Hart, Chris Saden, Zach Buckley, Trent Thompson, Matt Coyle and Seb McAfee, Saturday is the day they have all waited for as they will lead the Hillbillies into the Class B New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four baseball tournament in Binghamton.
Fredonia will take on Section 10’s Ogdensburg Free Academy at 1 p.m. at Union-Endicott High School.
Ogdensburg is led by stud pitcher Breton LaRose who pitched his team into the Final Four with a 23-strikeout performance in a nine-inning contest against Schalmont.
“He is overpowering,” Fredonia coach Vince Gullo said. “It will be a big challenge if we face him. We faced some hard throwers so hopefully we will be ready. We have faced four different style pitchers in the last four games. We have faced a power thrower, a junk ball thrower, a leftie and a side-arm pitcher. They were all effective. We aren’t striking out, but we aren’t getting the contact we want.”
Facing LaRose would be a daunting task for the Hillbillies’ offense as they have struggled in the postseason.
“The guys are trying too hard,” Gullo noted. “If they sit back and look for their pitch, they will be fine. They hit the ball well throughout the season. We have been flustered. Everyone’s hitting, just not at the crucial time. It’s a good situation to be in – sixth playoff game and waiting for the bats to come around.”
Fortunately for Fredonia, its defense has been near flawless thanks to the pitching of sophomore Cameron Voss, Thompson, Weston Ley and Jude Gardner.
“Everyone is rested,” Gullo declared. “I love the fact our pitchers are throwing strikes and hitting their spots. Even better, our defense is playing flawless. I said all year and the players are saying it now, ‘Pitchers and defense win championships.'”
Though no current player on the Fredonia roster has been to this stage, there will be several members of the team in the dugout who have been to the Final Four.
Gullo last coached at this level in 2009 while assistant coach Charlie LaDuca had a phenomenal run as coach of the Pine Valley Panthers and Brian Bongiovanni played in the Final Four when he was a member of the Hillbillies.
“It’s great, LaDuca, Bongiovanni and I have been there,” Gullo said. “We know what to expect. We talked about the bus ride and the expectations. We don’t want to be overwhelmed. We want to take it in stride.
“We are going there on a business trip and would like to get it taken care of,”?Gullo continued. “That’s why we got coaching this season, we thought we had a special season in the works and the coaches have done a fabulous job.”
Despite the excitement around school, the Hillbillies are taking everything in stride.
“The boys are so humble,” Gullo concluded. “The teachers and students are excited. It’s such an easy group to pull for. They are all such great students and athletes. They have a lot to be proud of.”