By STEFAN GESTWICKI
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
WESTFIELD - No. 3 Westfield held off a furious seventh-inning rally to escape with a 5-2 victory over No. 6 Maple Grove on Thursday in Section 6 Class C baseball quarterfinal action.
OBSERVER?Photo by Stefan Gestwicki
Westfield’s Brent Morrison delivers a pitch during Thursday’s?Section 6 Class C high school baseball quarterfinal game.
The No. 3 Wolverines appeared to have the game locked up headed into the seventh inning. Starting pitcher Brent Morrison had allowed just three hits in six shutout innings and the bottom of No. 6 Maple Grove's batting order was due up.
The Red Dragons certainly made the game interesting, however, as pinch-hitter Zach Hallberg and Aaron Germain connected on back-to-back, one-out doubles to dash any thoughts of a shutout.
That ended Morrison's day as Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach called on Austin Alonge to close the game out.
Alonge, who tossed a no-hitter against the Red Dragons earlier in the season, initially struggled to find the strike zone and walked Maple Grove's No. 8 and 9 hitters, Drew Bentham and John Ahlstrom, respectively.
"Definitely," Kaltenbach answered when asked if he was nervous with Alonge struggling with command. "He's coming in with that high pressure, but we have faith in him."
Alonge rewarded that faith by retiring Matt Fowler on an RBI fielder's choice and then striking out Will Lucas to end the game.
"I have to credit Westfield," Maple Grove coach Jordan Rambacher said. "They have two great pitchers and of course Doug (Kaltenbach). They're a real nice team."
"We knew (Maple Grove) was a good team," Kaltenbach continued. "They don't quit. Every game for the past two years has been tough and tight."
See CLASS?C, Page B3
Fowler, who had faced Westfield twice this season already, wasn't at his best and gave up a quick run in the second inning.
Travis Rammelt led off the inning with a single to center field. He swiped second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Fowler settled down to record a strikeout, but Jon Coe lifted the first pitch he saw deep into center for a sacrifice fly and an RBI.
After Morrison recorded three quick outs in the top of the third - he retired the first nine batters he faced - the Westfield bats got hot in the home half of the inning.
After a Fowler strikeout, Greg Best did exactly what a leadoff hitter is supposed to do as he singled, stole second and advanced to third when the throw down sailed into center field. Dillon Kawski followed with a walk and an uncontested swipe of second base.
With runners on second and third, Austin Alonge proved why he's one of the most feared hitters in the area by ripping a two-run single into right-center field. Alonge then went first-to-third on Morrison's single and scored on Rammelt's RBI groundout.
"We figured Fowler would be pitching," Kaltenbach said. "I told the guys, 'You get to see a pitcher three times.' Not to take anything away from him, he's a very tough pitcher."
Westfield escaped a jam as a Justin Brisky groundball resulted in a beautifully turned 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
"That double play was a huge play," Kaltenbach added. "Our middle infield is tough. I'd take our middle infield over any middle infield in high school around here. Dillon (Kawski) makes every play and Brandon (Johnston) at second base, they're solid."
Fowler shook off the rough third inning and allowed just one run over the final three innings, an RBI double by Morrison in the fifth. He finished with six strikeouts and allowed five runs on six hits and three walks.
"Fowler's been my workhorse since he was a sophomore," Rambacher said of his senior hurler. "I'm going to miss him a lot. He's a great kid, very level-headed and has a great pitcher mentality."
Maple Grove threatened again in the fifth as Jake Swan and Bentham each recorded singles, but Morrison was once again able to escape trouble, this time with a strikeout.
Westfield's big righty was charged with two runs over six-and-a-third innings. He struck out six and didn't issue a walk.
"Brent's been pitching fantastic," Kaltenbach raved. "I think one of the differences is they thought Austin (Alonge) was going to pitch. Brent throws better off-speed stuff. Having Alonge behind the plate means everything for us, too."
Morrison helped his cause with the bat with a 2 for 3 performance and an RBI.
Five Maple Grove seniors - Hallberg, Bentham, John Nickerson, Fowler and Brisky - played in their final high school game.
"We'll miss them a lot," Rambacher said of the quintet. "They're all great kids and they will do great in life."
Westfield will host No. 7 Cattaraugus-Little Valley on Tuesday for a semifinal showdown.