ALDEN - With two men on in the bottom of the seventh, Matt Shields knocked a game-winning RBI base hit to allow the No. 7 Alden Bulldogs to eliminate the No. 10 Dunkirk Marauders (8-12), 4-3, Monday in a Class B-1 high school baseball prequarterfinal.
Dunkirk starter Drew Messina allowed a hit and a walk before he was pulled in favor of Kevin Burns. Three pick-off attempts later, Shields made contact and sent the Marauders home.
"We tried everything in the seventh," Dunkirk coach Frank Jagoda said. "We knew we were in trouble. We were reeling back, we were on our heels. We did everything we possibly could to grab an out before they put the ball in play."
Messina, who missed the closing portion of the CCAA Division 1 schedule due to injury, struck out three, walked two and allowed five hits in six-plus innings of work.
"I think he just threw his heart out today," Jagoda said. "He put his heart on the mound and he was truly someone we counted on today. Finally, he got back in the mix to play for us today. He got a little tired. He walked a guy, gave up a hit. He threw an outstanding game."
The Marauders started the game's scoring in the top of the second inning, one started by a double from jayvee call-up Zach Crandall in his first career postseason game. Juliam Fred reached on a single and stole second before an Alex Crowell ground ball went through the legs of an Alden fielder, scoring both Crandall and Fred.
"He had a very tough at-bat," Jagoda said.
The Bulldogs waited until the bottom of the fifth to answer back with three runs scored on two sacrifice flies and a Shields base hit to give Alden a 3-2 lead.
Alden gave away that lead in the top of the sixth as starter Austin Hopcia and reliever Corey Barczykowski combined to walk four straight Marauders, including the tying run. That would be all Dunkirk could muster in the inning, however, as the Bulldogs turned a double play with the bases loaded and no outs.
"There were some fundamental things for Alden," Jagoda said. "They got some bunts down and we couldn't take advantage."
Crandall mustered the lone extra-base hit for the Marauders, who were held without a multi-hit batter.
Hopcia went five-plus innings as the starter for Alden as he struck out five and walked four. Barczykowski closed out the game and struck out four. Shields led the Bulldogs at the plate with his two hits.
Alden moves on to play No. 2 Albion in a quarterfinal Wednesday.
For Dunkirk, it marks the end of just the second losing season in Jagoda's 20-year tenure and the first time in six seasons the Marauders haven't claimed a championship at some level.
"We had a lot of intensity today, more than we've had in a long time and that's because we had some guys who were bound and determined to play a good ball game," Jagoda said. "We didn't play with that full intensity during the season. If we did, maybe our record would be a little bit better.
"This is the first time for last six years we haven't won some portion of a championship, we haven't staked a claim to something at the end of the season. There's so many expectations to do well. I'm very proud of the guys who stuck with the team. I'll take those kids any day - win, lose, or draw."
Gowanda 9, CSAT 3
GOWANDA - Gowanda scored five runs in the second inning to give eighth-grade pitcher Matt Kruszka enough breathing room to pitch the No. 6 Panthers past No. 11 CSAT, 9-3, Monday in Section 6 Class B-2 prequarterfinal action.
Kruszka pitched six strong innings as he walked four, struck out four and scattered six hits.
"It was his turn to go and we gave him the ball," Gowanda coach Tim Smith said. "He struggled early. Once he got through the first, he did what he needed to do. He threw strikes and kept them off balance."
After falling behind 2-0 after one, Gowanda took the lead in the second with a five-run frame.
Cole Dailey doubled, Matt Kruszka singled. Josh Mitchell hit a sacrifice fly to score Cole Dailey. Justin and John McCarthy singled to score Matt Kruszka. Ryan Boutelle added a two-run single to highlight the frame.
"It was real big to get those runs in the second," Smith noted. "If you're on the road, the longer a team hangs in, the more confidence and more momentum they can get. I would like to see those runs come in the first, but the second inning is the next best thing. We came out a bit flat. Once we started hitting the ball and moving guys, we got rolling."
Boutelle finished with three hits while Dailey, Kruszka and Chase Williams each had two for the winners.
Gowanda travels to No. 3 JFK today.