Alden looks for long awaited revenge on Hillbillies today

Chance to advance

OBSERVER File Photo: Tyler Winchell and the Fredonia Hillbillies take on Alden today at noon at Gowanda Central School in the Section VI Class B crossover championship game.

Another year, another Sectional title.

The Fredonia Hillbillies baseball program has been the model of consistency over the last 13 years, which includes a record-setting seven consecutive Sectional titles dating back to 2011.

Since 2005, the Hillbillies have won a Sectional title in all but three seasons (2007, 2008 and 2010). Once again, the Hillbillies have their sights set on another run toward a state title, but in their way today is hands down their biggest test of the season.

Fredonia will face the Alden Bulldogs (14-4, 9-3) at Gowanda Central School for the overall Class B championship and a trip to the Far West Regional today. First pitch is scheduled for noon.

The Bulldogs enter today’s game ranked No. 19 in the latest New York State Sports Writers Association poll while Fredonia is ranked right behind at No. 20.

The two teams have been on a collision course all season and have a history in the Class B playoffs.

Last season, Fredonia defeated Alden, 5-3, in the Class B crossover game after falling behind 3-1. Fredonia also defeated the Bulldogs for the Class B title in 1984 when head coach Vince Gullo was a junior first baseman for the Hillbillies.

“We played them last year in the crossover and, like us, they have seven returning starters,” Gullo said. “They’ve been waiting for this game all year. We have seen them play two to three times this year and they are the real deal. They’re a strong high school team. They have some big boys who score runs and they have power pitching. They’re the best team we’ve faced so far. I assume we will be facing the same pitcher (today) who gave us problems (last year).”

Nate Reger is that pitcher, who as a junior and allowed three earned runs on six hits, struck out eight and walked five over 5 2/3 innings of work in the 2016 championship game.

Last season, Jarod Burmaster started for the Hillbillies and worked the first five innings. He allowed three runs — just one earned — on six hits. Fredonia went on to ride Burmaster all the way to the state finals.

This season, Fredonia doesn’t have a Burmaster or a Cam Voss as it has had in the recent past. While the Hillbillies may lack a dominant ace who can fill a scorebook with K’s, they do have a deep staff that has produced all season and a gifted defense behind the mound.

“We haven’t had a dominant strikeout pitcher, but we have effective pitchers,” Gullo said. “Reid Tarnowski and Derrick Walters have been getting the job done as starters. They’re efficient and don’t walk people. Then Lucas Voss closes the game. The pitching keeps us in the game and we have a strong defense. We have better hitting this year and are waiting for a few guys to get hot.”

It takes a lot to be as consistent as the Hillbillies have been. As Gullo stated, Fredonia has solid athletes whose No. 1 priority is baseball, great assistant coaches and a strong youth program.

All of those factors have led Fredonia to another chance at a deep run in the Class B playoffs. All that stands in its way today is a team that wants nothing more than to avenge a loss and make that same run.