The last time Dunkirk and Fredonia met, juniors Alex Kubera and Trent Thompson engaged in a pitchers' duel that saw Thompson's Hillbillies come out on top, 3-2.
The crowd on hand today at Al Stuhlmiller Field should expect much of the same, as both teams' ace will look to keep the hopes for a CCAA Division 1 crown alive.
"We have to win out to have a chance at clinching a share of the title," Dunkirk head coach Frank Jagoda said. "I know that the atmosphere for us is going to be real good. (Fredonia) can clinch a share of the title (today) and knock us out, so there's a lot on the line for them to do that and there's no better team for them to do it against than us, and I know we'd like to keep it going and have a shot by the end of the week to say that we're co-champions. If that dictates a very good atmosphere, or a very intense atmosphere, then that's how it will be."
Dunkirk’s Alex Kubera, left, and Fredonia’s Trent Thompson, right, will look to pitch their teams to victory, as the Marauders and Hillbillies square off at Al Stuhlmiller Field in CCAA?Division 1 baseball action this afternoon. Fredonia won the first meeting this season, 3-2.
Fredonia head coach Vince Gullo likes the timing of the second meeting against his team's arch-rival.
"I think it's a great time for it, right before the playoffs," Gullo said of today's game. "It gets the kids in the right mindset and we'll see who can come up big. If we win, we'll clinch at least a share of the division championship. It's quite a challenge ahead of us."
With such little offense in the first game, both teams will have to take advantage of the opportunities given them today, something the Hillbillies did just a little bit better than the Marauders the first time around.
"I think Fredonia capitalized when they had the opportunity," Jagoda said of the teams' meeting on April 27. "I think we just need to cut down on a couple of our defensive lapses and Alex doesn't have to strike everyone out. He has to put the ball in play and let his defense work for him, but when he needs a big strikeout, he needs to be able to come out and get one."
Gullo also knows that pitching and defense will most likely decide today's contest.
"We've got to keep our defense going," Gullo said. "Trent's a solid pitcher. He strikes out five to seven a game, but (Dunkirk) puts a lot of balls in play, so our defense has to make the easy outs.
"The weather is hopefully going to be a lot nicer," Gullo continued. "I think if (Trent) can continue throwing strikes, work ahead in the count and be in charge of the pace, then I think he'll be fine."
The Marauders have struggled at the plate this season, finding it hard to score runs like they had done the past few years. However, Jagoda was pleased with the way his boys swung the bats against Falconer last Thursday, and Southwestern on Friday, as the Marauders won by scores of 11-3 and 19-8, respectively.
"You can wait a little bit for your pitch, but you don't want to get behind," Jagoda said of his players' approach at the plate. "You want to jump on something early in the count so you don't get behind and have to rely on making adjustments to curveballs, and I think we did that over the last couple of days. We saw the pitch we liked, we hit it, we hit it hard and we took advantage of some mistakes too."
The Hillbillies on the other hand have had very little trouble scoring this season. In their most recent games last week they topped Southwestern 10-0 on Thursday, Olean 6-2 on Friday, and Gowanda 9-1 on Saturday.
"My guys like to swing the bats," Gullo noted. "They put a lot of time in perfecting their swings. It's a great opportunity to face a quality pitcher and we're looking forward to the challenge.
"It's was a long week," Gullo continued. "We're very happy. We're taking it one game at a time."
Although Jagoda and his players know that the game will go a long way in determining the league champion, they also know there is much more at stake.
"This game is not only for a share of the league lead with two games to play, it also puts us in a better situation going into the Olean game for seeding purposes," Jagoda said. "You have to start looking at seedings, so there are a couple of different scenarios for us in (today's) game, which makes it that much more important. The opportunity is there. I think Fredonia felt that they were going to be where they are, but I'm not sure that everybody felt that we were going to be where we are and the opportunity is there for us to take. We've got the shot, hopefully we take advantage of it."