Hillbillies advance to Far West Regional for third-straight year


OBSERVER Sports Reporter

JAMESTOWN – Weston Ley shook off an early bout of wildness and Fredonia’s offense pounded out 15 hits, as the Hillbillies (20-3) cruised to their third-straight overall Section 6 Class B baseball title, 10-3, over Gowanda on Wednesday at Russell E. Diethrick Park, in Jamestown.

“Too many walks,” Gowanda coach Tim Smith said. “Too many free base runners and a lot of them scored. That was probably the difference in the game.”

Fredonia, the No. 2 seed in the Class B-1 bracket were down 1-0 heading into the top of the third inning against Class B-2 No. 1 seed Gowanda, and that’s when the Hillbillies’ bats woke up.

“We had more hits (Wednesday) than we had in our three previous playoff games,” Fredonia coach Vince Gullo said. “So the guys were due and we changed some things around. We had some good batting practices back home and you know what, the guys broke them out and this was the best game to do it in. I’m pretty proud of them.”

Ley singled to open the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jarod Burmaster, before scoring on Cam Voss’ RBI double to left field. Cody Smith moved Cam Voss up a base on a grounder back to the pitcher while Matt Sheridan and Michael Pucci worked walks off Joe Kruszka to load the bases.

“Nobody likes to come inside on him,” Gullo said of Cam Voss. “So he basically can put the ball the other way, but he turns on one every now and then, too.”

Then, with two outs, Cam Voss’ younger brother, Lucas, came up big with a two-run bloop single to left-center field, putting Fredonia up, 3-1.

“We moved him up in the lineup a little bit because he’s been making pretty good contact,” Gullo said of Lucas Voss. “And in that sixth spot, I think he came through three or four times (Wednesday) and just kept that order rolling over and he made good contact.”

The Hillbillies broke the game open in the top of the fourth, as five runners came around to score. The inning was highlighted by a two-run double by Smith and RBI singles by Cam Voss – who finished 5 for 5 on the day – Lucas Voss and their first cousin, Noah Voss.

“From what we saw, (Fredonia) had under 10 hits in three playoff games,” Smith noted. “And obviously they exploded in a nice way. We didn’t want to be the ones helping them move on with that into their next game, but apparently we seemed to be the tackling dummy for them.”

Shane DeLeo, who relieved Kruszka with two outs and a one-ball count on Vince Gullo in the top of the fourth, allowed two more runs in the top of the fifth on Cam Voss’ third run-scoring hit of the game, a single, and an RBI ground out off the bat of Sheridan.

After allowing Gowanda (18-6) to score a run on a bases-loaded walk to Cole Dailey in the bottom of the first, and working out of trouble in the bottom of the second and third innings, Ley settled in until the bottom of the sixth when he allowed Chase Williams and Dailey to cross home plate. However, like he did all day, Ley worked out of further trouble.

“That’s really nice to see,” Gullo said of Ley’s ability to work out of trouble. “He’s been doing it for four years for us and he’s a leader. He’s grown so much as a player and a person and we love having him on our team.”

In the seventh, John McCarthy and Ryan Boutelle singled to start the inning, but Ley got Joe Kruszka to fly out to left field, Matt Kruszka to ground into a fielder’s choice which erased Boutelle at second and Josh Balzer to ground out to Burmaster at shortstop to end the game.

“He battled,” Smith said of Ley. “He did a hell of a job, he’s had a hell of a career for Fredonia and I wish them the best. I certainly don’t want to see them lose on Saturday and (I want to see) them make it all the way to states. My hat’s off to them for the way that they came out and played and to Vinny (Gullo) for the way he’s had these guys ready to go and sticking it to us here.”

Ley, who upped his record to 5-1 on the season, finished allowing three runs on six hits while striking out four, walking five and hitting a batter.

“It really came down to (the fact that) we have a lot of confidence in Weston,” Gullo said when asked about his decision to go with Ley for Wednesday’s game. “When Weston is 100 percent, I’ll take Wes at 100 (percent) over Cam at 80 (percent). And that’s basically what it came down to. We would have had to use Cam as our No. 2 pitcher (Wednesday), because there’s no sense in resting him at 80 (percent), because he’s better than most people that are 100 percent. But not Weston. When Weston is 100 percent, he gets the ball.”

Joe Kruszka allowed eight runs on 10 hits while striking out three and walking seven.

“He didn’t say he had any problems out there,” Smith said. “I don’t want to use (the rain) as an excuse. I think maybe he was trying to be too fine a little bit and missing enough that it wasn’t close enough for them to offer at, or close enough to be a strike.”

For Smith, Wednesday’s game represented the last time he will have the opportunity to coach four seniors that have been a big part of the Gowanda baseball program during their four years of high school.

“It’s tough to see four seniors go who have given their hearts to the Gowanda baseball program,” Smith said. “So my hat’s off to Josh Mitchell, Dalton Francis, Ryan Boutelle and Chase Williams, for giving everything they’ve had for the last few years that they’ve been here. And I wish them all the best as they move forward in their next chapter of life.”

Up next for the Hillbillies is a date with Section 5 champion Livonia – which is currently ranked No. 1 in the state by the New York State Sports Writers Association – in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B Far West Regional.

“Cam will be on the mound, so we always have a chance to win with Cam (pitching),” Gullo said. “We’re playing a well-rested Livonia with an All-State pitcher that throws pretty good heat, so we have our work cut out for us.”

First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m., at Dwyer Stadium in Batavia.

NOTES: Cam Voss had three RBIs to go with his five hits … Lucas Voss was 2 for 4 with three RBIs … Ley was 3 for 4 with three runs scored, including a double in the top of the fifth that helped him set a new school record for hits in a season at 53. The previous record of 52 was set by current Fredonia assistant coach Brian Bongiovanni in 2005 … Balzer and Boutelle had two hits each for the Panthers in the loss while DeLeo finished the game allowing two runs on five hits over 3 1/3 innings of work. He struck out three and walked two.