Early runs hold as Billies blank Marauders

The Fredonia Hillbillies (1-0) began the defense of their New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B baseball title with a 5-0 win over archrival Dunkirk (0-1) on Wednesday.

Fredonia scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the first off Dunkirk starting pitcher Sam Pepe, before scoring three more runs in the second and chasing the senior with two outs in frame.

“Sam hung tough,” Dunkirk coach Frank Jagoda said. “But again, you’ve got to put the ball in play. You’ve got to get through the inning. You can’t throw 40 pitches in one inning, because that limits your time on the mound. Especially this early in the season.”

Fredonia’s Weston Ley got the Hillbillies going in the bottom of the first with a leadoff double, before moving to third on a single by Matt Sheridan and scoring the game’s first run on a wild pitch. Cody Smith followed with Fredonia’s third straight hit, a single that chased home Sheridan for an early 2-0 lead.

“They’re a young team,” Fredonia coach Vince Gullo noted of Dunkirk. “We’re a young team. I think we just got a little momentum early. We had some nice base hits. Wes started us off and Cody had a great offensive game.”

Pepe walked Cam Voss and Mike Pucci to load the bases, but worked out of further trouble after getting Jared Burmaster to ground into a fielder’s choice which erased Smith at the plate, a strikeout of Zack Odebralski and a fly ball off the bat of Noah Voss.

In the home half of the second, Pepe got Tyler DiRusso to fly out to right, but was unable to get past Ley, Sheridan and Smith, who doubled, walked and singled, respectively. Smith’s single plated Ley while Sheridan and Smith came home on a long, two-out double off the bat of Mike Pucci, which pushed the Hillbillies’ lead to 5-0.

“They had a really good offensive game,” Gullo said of the top of his team’s lineup. “But we can’t expect them to do that every single game. We need a little bit more consistency through the lineup, but we’ll find out people’s strengths and we’ll start our bunting game soon. But right now, early in the season, our boys that took us to a state championship (in 2013) are the boys that are going to have to come through.”

After Pucci’s double, Tyreek Ruiz came in for the Marauders and silenced the Hillbillies’ bats the rest of the afternoon, allowing just three hits while striking out five and not issuing a walk over the final 4-1/3 innings.

“He threw last year,” Jagoda noted of Ruiz. “He played all year, but we brought him on the mound late (in the season). He’s a gamer. He’s aggressive, he took charge of a fly ball out there, and his focus as a freshman is outstanding. He really wants to excel and you can tell.”

At the plate, the Marauders had their hands full as Ley combined with Noah Voss to allow just three hits while striking out 19 and walking six.

“You’ve got to put the ball in play and challenge the other team,” Jagoda said. “Nineteen strikeouts out of 21 outs, that certainly isn’t a challenge for anyone.”

Despite it’s troubles making contact Wednesday, Dunkirk did have its chances to put runs on the board, as it loaded the bases in both the second and third innings against Ley and had runners at second and third with one out in the sixth against Noah Voss.

But the Marauders were unable to push any runs across as Ley got Troy Smith-Petrella swinging to end the second and Pepe swinging to end the third while Voss got Smith-Petrella looking to end the threat in the sixth.

“He was trying to be too perfect,” Gullo said of Ley’s performance on the mound in the second and third innings. “Sometimes we’ve got to remind these guys to pitch to contact. We don’t have to have the swings and misses. I know it looks good, but that’s not what we’re after.”

“We put the ball in play five times total all day and you’re not going to win a ballgame doing that,” Jagoda lamented. “But despite that, we were in the game late in the game because of Tyreek Ruiz and how he pitched. He came in and shut the door.”

Ley finished his day allowing two hits – singles by Nate Skubis and Nick Thompson in the third – while striking out 12 and walking six. Noah Voss came on in relief with two outs in the fifth and finished the game allowing a hit – Thompson’s second single of the game in the sixth – while striking out seven and hitting a batter.

“He didn’t surprise me,” Gullo said of Noah Voss. “I think the only person he surprises is himself. He’s a great pitcher. He’s our No. 3 and I want him pushing to be our No. 2 pitcher this year. He’s very capable out there, he gives our team a lot of confidence. I wish he knew how good he can be, because he was light’s out for us.”

NOTES: Ley (two doubles) and Smith (double, two RBIs) both finished 3 for 4 on the day while Ley added two runs scored and two stolen bases … The Hillbillies stole nine bases in the game … Wednesday marked the first time the two teams had played each other at the diamond on Chestnut Street since 1989.