Wolverines’ hot start too much for Cougars
WELLSVILLE – The Cassadaga Valley baseball team ended a drought of nearly four decades when it bested Westfield for the Section 6 Class C title, but on Saturday afternoon, the Wolverines of Bolivar-Richburg brought the Cougars’ excellent postseason run to a close.
The Section 5 champions posted a confident 11-1 victory over Cassadaga Valley (12-5) to take home the Class C Far West Regional title and advance to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four against Pierson on June 14 in Binghamton.
“I mean it was 40 years for us since we won a Section 6 championship and we won that game,” said Cougars coach Joe Mistretta. ”We deserved that game. Our kids deserve that championship and they should be proud of that.”
Entering the game, Bolivar-Richburg (21-3) was ranked seventh in the state while the Cougars stood one spot back in eighth, according to the New York State Sportswriters Association poll.
The Wolverines averaged 8.6 runs per game this season and wasted no time letting Cassadaga Valley know as they exploded for five runs in the bottom of the first and cruised from there.
Mistretta knew he would have to find a way to stop seniors CJ Pierce and Reston Pettit at the plate, but the pair stuck to form and combined for five hits to lead Bolivar-Richburg.
In addition to his unstoppable performance in the batter’s box, Pettit did even more damage on the mound as he kept the Cougars scoreless through five innings with eight strikeouts, two walks and two hits.
“We haven’t seen anybody as close to as good as (Pettit) all year, you know, and he had a great curveball,” Mistretta said. ”It was the most curveballs in one game that we have seen all year.”
Clearly the Wolverines did their homework coming into Saturday’s matchup as Pettit steered away from fastballs against the big hitters for the Cougars in favor of breaking balls.
Kyle Ruge, Jaquan Watts and Matt Heath all racked up outstanding averages this season for Cassadaga Valley facing pitchers without hard-breaking balls, something that Pettit knew before stepping on to the field and exploited throughout the game.
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Starting on the mound for the Cougars was Matt Hallowell, who struck out three before being relieved by Watts in the third inning.
Watts walked three and fanned a pair before giving way to Chase Jones, who finished off the game with a pair of nicely thrown strikeouts.
In the home half of the first inning, the Wolverines started their day out hot, notching five hits in hitting through their order and starting out the day with a comfortable lead.
Pettit nearly struck a home run while batting the the third slot, but was cut off at third for an RBI triple.
Pettit started off the second inning with a double and was chased home by a double from Gary Burdick.
Cassadaga Valley looked to have a good opportunity to get on the board in its half of the third when Ruge had a lead-off single with Watts on deck, but the speedy senior was thrown out trying to stealing second. That left Watts to hammer a deep triple in vain before Pettit could end the inning.
The Cougars ended the shutout in the sixth thanks to a double by Hallowell, who added some swift base running. The hurler was then sent home on a single by catcher Tyson Gugino to make it an 11-1 final.
“It is always important to get on the board and score, and let yourself know that ‘Hey. we earned something,”’ Mistretta said. ”Not to get shut out was good, it was important for the kids.”
He added, “We battled adversity all year long. We had a couple of injuries, our catcher had surgery after the second game of the year. We had a couple of people playing out of position and we won a Section 6 championship. They should be proud of themselves and they should take that with them.”