Fredonia will look to move its winning streak over arch rival Dunkirk (8-9, 5-6) to three straight today when the two teams meet at the baseball diamond behind Fredonia Central School.
Also on the line is a new school record for the Hillbillies - consecutive wins to start a season. The 2013 edition of the Hillibillies are 16-0 and are currently tied with the 1985 Hillbillies. Those two teams have something in common as Fredonia coach Vince Gullo played on the 1985 squad skippered by Pete Criscione.
The most important thing on the line for the Hillbillies however is another CCAA Division 1 title.
Fredonia senior Trent Thompson will look to help the Hillbillies sweep arch-rival Dunkirk today at Fredonia High?School. With a win, Fredonia will clinch the CCAA?Division 1 baseball title.
"These guys are trying to win their third straight Section title," Gullo said. "They're trying to win their third straight league title. They're pretty successful at baseball. They're looking at the big picture and they know that we've got to get better game by game. Hopefully we'll keep rolling through the end of May and into June."
One would think that winning against your arch rival would be about the best way to sew up a third-straight league title. Gullo, however, noted that was not his team's mindset.
"My guys don't really think like that," Gullo said. "We know Dunkirk's been injury riddled this year, but they're still a strong team. They're going to give us everything they've got and we're trying to make sure we stay healthy going into the playoffs."
To get to 17-0, Fredonia, the No. 2 team in the New York State Sportswriters Association Class B poll, will have to get through the Marauders' senior hurler Kevin Burns.
"We haven't faced him," Gullo said of Burns. "Some of my guys faced him in jayvees a couple of years ago. He's a strong pitcher and he always gives Dunkirk a chance to win. He's their ace and we've got to come prepared to face a good pitcher and that's what we need going into the playoffs."
Dunkirk coach Frank Jagoda is confident Burns will be ready to face Fredonia for what could be the last time.
"I expect the same gritty performance I've gotten out of him the last four times I've asked him to go on the mound," Jagoda said. "He's a battler and hopefully he puts the ball in play and hopefully we field it.
"I have all the confidence in the world that Kevin will be a leader on the mound," Jagoda continued. "He's going to do his best."
The last time these two teams met, the Hillbillies came away with a 11-4 win, as Weston Ley got the start. Today, Ley, senior Trent Thompson, or junior Cam Voss could see time on the hill.
"All three are rested and we're going to try to get through Dunkirk with the 'W', and figure out what we have left to compete with Allegany-Limestone on Tuesday," Gullo said.
Jagoda noted that regardless of who is on the mound for the Hillbillies, his team will have to be ready.
"I think we need to work on every pitch as it comes to us," Jagoda said. "And cut down our swings with two strikes and we need to be better situational hitters than we have been for the entire season. (We need to make sure) we're not taking a big cut, but a focused cut regardless of who's on the mound."
The Marauders are coming off a pair of Sectional titles of their own, but Jagoda noted he's had a tough time getting a read on his team this season.
"I think the difficult part of this season right now is we've played 17 games and we're still searching for a lineup with some things that have happened," Jagoda said. "So it's been hard to get a read on exactly the flow of our season. But hopefully we take these next three games and work on it and get ready for a playoff run."
Fredonia plays Allegany-Limestone in the completion of Friday's game on Tuesday. The Hillbillies are leading 1-0, but the Gators have runners at second and third with one out. Fredonia then plays Jamestown on Wednesday and Frewsburg at Diethrick Park on Friday in a pair of non-league games to finish its season. If they win out, the will finish the season 20-0.
"It's quite challenging when you keep winning all the time," Gullo said of whether or not he would mind if he his team lost a game before the playoffs start. "You can't tinker as much with your team. You keep rolling out the same lineup, the same batting order. When you lose a game, you face a little adversity and you're willing to try things different things that might be better for you. But until you lose, you've got to keep doing the same thing."
Despite their differences, one thing the Hillbillies and Marauders can agree on, is it's always better to walk away the winner. For Dunkirk, winning would serve a couple of purposes.
"There's a couple of things it would do," Jagoda said. "It would put us at 6-6 in league and possibly move us up a couple of notches in the (playoff) seedings. That would be first and foremost. The second thing is it is always a good thing if you can beat Fredonia. They've had they've had the upper hand these last two games, so it'd be a feather in our cap not only to beat them and move our record up, but to beat them and put a stop to their undefeated league season.
"That's something that we've had to go through," Jagoda continued. "And I know that's one thing that's really tough to do and that's to have an undefeated league season. We put together back-to-back (undefeated seasons) in 2009 and 2010. I know hard that can be. You either win them big of they're real close and there's nothing in between."