Some success for FHS

Baseball, softball strong in season but fall short in sectional playoffs

OBSERVER File Photos Maddie Marsh (above) and Derrick Walters were the top pitchers for Fredonia’s teams this past season.

Fredonia High School has been a powerhouse on the diamond in both baseball and softball in recent years. Coming into the 2018 season, Vince Gullo’s Hillbillies baseball team had captured a New York State record seven straight Class B1 titles, while the Lady ‘Billies were coming off a perfect regular season and league title from the previous softball season.

Fredonia put itself in position to grab glory once again in 2018. However, both team’s seasons came to a halt on the same day, in the same stage of the postseason, to the same school — as both Billies squads lost to Olean in Class B1 finals on May 24.

Still, although Fredonia did not bring home playoff titles, both programs had memorable moments in the 2018 season. Here is a look back at each team’s year:

Baseball

Head Coach: Vince Gullo

Record: (16-2 overall, 12-0 league)

Key Wins: Albion, Depew, Gowanda, Hamburg, sweep of Division 1 West

Seniors: (8) — Derrick Walters, Seth Schrader, Reid Tarnowski, Ryan Mroczka, Tyler Winchell, Nolan Mages, Jared Kowalski, Owen Schrantz.

Review: Once Fredonia finally took the field for the first time on April 13, the Hillbillies made up for lost time with a 23-0 win over Maple Grove — a win so dominant that the visiting coach declined to be interviewed after the game. Followed by a loss to Harborcreek, Pa., in a game that had no implications on the regular season standings, the Hillbillies went on an impressive run, even by Fredonia’s high standards. Fredonia scored at least 12 runs in each of its next three games, punctuated by a 12-4 win over rival Dunkirk in Fredonia on April 23.

After the game, Fredonia coach Vince Gullo said, “The truth of the matter is we haven’t faced any aces yet. … I hope teams try to challenge us because we’re ripe for the picking.”

Fredonia would be challenged, but the result remained the same for the remainder of the regular season. The Hillbillies ended the regular season with a 14-1 record overall, with a perfect 12-0 record in league games.

On May 8, Fredonia had a memorable win, as senior pitcher Derrick Walters threw a no-hitter in Silver Creek. Seth Schrader also hit the first home run of his varsity career in the game. To make the game even more special, Gullo earned his 300th victory as head coach.

Although the regular season went about as well as you could draw it up for Fredonia, Gullo’s squad will always be measured by what it does in the postseason. An 8-0 win over Albion opened up the playoffs for Fredonia, but after that, the Hillbillies had to travel to Depew. Walters threw a complete game, 9 inning gem to lead Fredonia to a 2-1 win in extra innings to earn a spot in the B1 final.

Once the Hillbillies got to that familiar stage, however, the team just ran out of gas. With Walters unavailable to pitch due to pitch count restrictions from the previous game, Olean put up 12 runs on Fredonia to come away with a 12-8 win, finally ending Fredonia’s seven year reign atop Class B1.

Moving forward, Fredonia will be a tough team to forecast. Gullo’s team graduated eight seniors, including the team’s ace pitcher in Walters and its top hitter in Schrader. Reid Tarnowski and Ryan Mroczka, among others, leave very difficult holes to fill, as well. It’s up to the newest member of the 300-win club, Gullo, to push all the right buttons once again.

Softball

Head Coach: Jesse Beers

Record: (13-4 overall, 9-3 league)

Key Wins: Chautauqua Lake, Dunkirk (x2), Lake Shore (x2)

Seniors: (3) — Cassie Essek, Grace Pucciarelli, Hannah Gullo

Review: Coming into the 2018 season, many coaches in the area wondered what Fredonia would do to fill in the holes left by the departures of the Cybart twins and shortstop Mekenna Leid. Those questions were answered in 2018 and for many years to come for the Lady ‘Billies.

The first big decision for Jesse Beers as Fredonia head coach was addressing the shortstop position. It turns out Beers didn’t have to look far to find his answer, as his daughter, Kazlin, moved from second base to take over shortstop in 2018. Sydney Bigelow took on more responsibility at second base, in addition to her contributions as the cleanup hitter in the lineup.

By the end of the 2018 season, Kazlin Beers seemed as comfortable at shortstop as anyone on the field at their respective position. Along with her defensive responsibilities, she became a force at the plate as the team’s leadoff hitter, as well as on the basepaths. The minute she reached base, it was only a matter of time until Jesse Beers sent his daughter in motion, and more often than not, it paid off for the Lady ‘Billies.

The biggest question of all in 2018, however, was who would step into the pitcher’s circle in the most crucial moments. The answer was, without a doubt, Maddy Marsh.

A freshman in 2018, Marsh quickly became Coach Beers’ go-to option in the circle. In the winner-take-all league title game in Fredonia on May 11, it was Marsh who was called upon to pitch the entire game for Fredonia.

That trend would continue throughout the playoffs, as Marsh pitched every inning of the postseason for the Lady ‘Billies. Marsh earned the win against Albion in the quarterfinals of the Class B1 sectional playoffs, then once again got the win over Dunkirk in the semifinals on May 21 on the softball field of SUNY Fredonia.

Marsh got the call for the Lady ‘Billies in the Class B1 title game against Olean on May 24 at Williamsville North. She pitched admirably, matching St. Bonaventure commit Alyssa Ramarge pitch for pitch, until Olean’s second run of the game came across in the bottom of the sixth inning. Fredonia was unable to answer, ending the Lady ‘Billies run in the Class B1 title game.

After the game, Coach Beers said, “Maddy Marsh, what can you say? (She) pitched her heart out today. She’s been getting it done for us all year. What poise to come in a sectional final game and throw a game like that… I’m glad she’s going to be on my team the next three years.”

Fredonia will head into the 2019 season with fewer questions than the Lady ‘Billies had coming into 2018. After a team who didn’t even know who its pitcher would be to start the year came within a run of a sectional title, it’s fair to assume Fredonia will once again be a championship contender.

Twitter: @bradencarmen

COMMENTS