Black Saturday

BATAVIA – Fredonia’s quest to repeat as New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B baseball champions came to an end Saturday afternoon at Dwyer Stadium, as the Hillbillies (20-4) fell to Section 5’s Livonia (24-1), 3-1.

“You’re playing the defending state champs and there’s no question you’re going to have to get past them to move on,” Livonia head coach Scott Gilman said. “Nobody is going to be terrible at this point, they’re all great teams.”

Zack Kolodziejski gave Fredonia all it could handle on the mound as the Section V Class B tournament Most Valuable Player allowed only an unearned run in the top of the second inning and three hits while striking out six and walking three in a complete-game effort.

“I thought we had decent contact,” Fredonia head coach Vince Gullo said. “They made some plays, they gave us a run and (Zack Kolodziejski) was tough. That was a lot of velocity and we were pretty fortunate that he wasn’t getting the curveball over too much.”

Fredonia junior lefty Cam Voss, who entered the game with a 21-0 record in his high school career pitched well enough to win, but the Bulldogs were able to push two runs across in the bottom of the third inning and one more in the bottom of the fifth to upend the defending state champs.

“Cam did a great job,” Gullo said. “Giving up three runs in a Far West (Regional), that’s not too shabby.”

Voss allowed the three runs on five hits, as he struck out four and walked three.

“He’s an excellent pitcher,” Gilman said of Voss. “He throws hard, has a nice off-speed pitch and we got a couple of hits off him and I think that was the big key.”

Down 1-0 entering their half of the third inning, the Bulldogs received an RBI double by leadoff hitter Mike English and a two-out RBI pop fly single by Jack Horan to take the lead.

“It hasn’t really happened to us all year,” Gullo said of the hit Horan had. “And even last year. We fell behind, but we had enough to come back. We had our chances with some base runners and we didn’t cash them in.”

Then, in the bottom of the fifth, English singled with two outs, before walks to Matt Acomb and Kolodziejski loaded the bases. Horan then stepped to the plate and hit what looked like a grand slam to left field, but the ball went just foul. Horan hung in and lined a hard ground ball that caromed off shortstop Jarod Burmaster, allowing English to score the Bulldogs’ third and final run of the game.

“He’s been struggling for us lately,” Gilman said of Horan. “The other day in batting practice he kept popping it up and popping it up. I wish that one would have gone over the fence, that would have made things nice and easy. But to hang in there and hit that ball hard was huge for us to get us another run.”

From there, Kolodziejski shut the Hillbillies down, allowing only a two-out single to Noah Voss in the top of the sixth and a two-out single to Cam Voss in the top of the seventh, before getting Cody Smith to fly out to left fielder Matt Feldman to end the game and send Livonia to the NYSPHSAA Class B Final Four, where they will face Section 1’s Rye Neck on Saturday at Binghamton University at 10 a.m.

“All season long he’s been very good for us,” Gilman said of Kolodziejski, who will play at Niagara University next year. “That was his 11th win this year and a kid like that, he throws pretty hard and has a decent off-speed pitch, he’s going to keep you in the game.”

The Hillbillies lone run came in the top of the second inning. Matt Sheridan reached on an error by Feldman at shortstop, before Mike Pucci struck out. Lucas Voss then rolled a grounder to third baseman Acomb, who threw the ball away at first base, allowing Sheridan to scamper home.

“We made those two or three mistakes there and it came back to haunt us once,” Gilman said. “But I don’t think they really capitalized on a couple of our miscues and they could have.”

Fredonia did have other chances to take a lead or tie the game, but Kolodzieski held the Hillbillies in check when he had to, including stranding Sheridan at third in the fourth and getting out of a first and second, no-out jam in the top of the fifth inning. He also worked around a two-out, two on situation in the top of the sixth.

“We didn’t do what we had to do,” Gullo said. “But you know what, that’s baseball. We just didn’t cash in on it (Saturday). Nothing you can do about it. It’s over.

We had some good at-bats,” Gullo continued. “But we didn’t hit the ball. It happens.”

Despite the loss, Gullo was proud of the effort his team gave him this year in trying to duplicate the success the Hillbillies had a season ago.

“We’ve had contributions from a lot of guys,” Gullo said. “They’re good ball players, they’re young and we’re going to miss our seniors very much. And hopefully we’ll be ready for next year.”

Fredonia will lose five seniors to graduation later this month, and Gullo knows he will have some holes to fill next season. Especially in the leadoff spot that was occupied by Weston Ley.

“We have to replace Weston (Ley), Cody (Smith) and Matt Sheridan,” Gullo said, before mentioning that Zach Odebralski and Jake Maslak will also be graduating this year. “It’s going to be tough to do. But everybody got 75 at-bats – seven guys in the lineup – and we have the Voss’s coming back, so we’ll be alright.”

Ley finished his final game in Fredonia’s orange and black by going 0-3 with a walk, but Gullo had nothing but praise for his senior captain.

“I wish he would have gotten one base hit (Saturday), because that would have got the whole team rolling,” Gullo said. “And to be honest, he hit the ball very well (Saturday).

“I’ve never seen a season like that,” Gullo continued of Ley. “Against whatever opponents, whether they were poor or great, he was phenomenal. He carried us offensively and took a lot of pressure off the guys. It’s going to take three guys to replace him for next year.”