T’birds edge Dunkirk in extra innings, 1-0

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Chautauqua Lake’s Devin Pope pitches Friday against Dunkirk. Pope was the winning pitcher and scored the only run of the game in the Thunderbirds’ 1-0 win over the Marauders.

The Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds, behind stellar pitching from Kyler Majka, defeated the Dunkirk Marauders, 1-0, in nine innings in a CCAA Division 1 West regular season high school baseball game on Friday at Dunkirk High School.

The game was a textbook example of a pitchers’ duel. Dunkirk (3-3, 2-1) went with senior Devaun Farnham-Dejesus on the mound and each pitcher was on the top of his game on Friday, but it was Majka’s team who came away on top.

“I felt really comfortable on the mound,” said Majka. “Everyone was behind me and I felt so good today. … It was a pleasure to go against (Farnham-Dejesus) and I love being the one to go to.”

Both pitchers pitched 7.2 innings of shutout ball.

“It was a classic high school pitching duel,” said Dunkirk coach Frank Jagoda. “We expect that out of Devaun and I’m sure (Chautauqua Lake coach Bryan Bongiovanni) expects that out of (Kyler) Majka. They both threw admirably well.”

Chautauqua Lake (2-2, 2-1) reached base three times in the first two innings. A base hit by Lucas Waters and an error led to runners on the corners for Chautauqua Lake with two outs in the second frame. However, Cody Triana was caught in a rundown and tagged out to end the inning.

In the top of the fourth, Farnham-Dejesus really hit his stride on the mound. The Niagara County Community College commit struck out the side, all swinging, in the heart of the Chautauqua Lake order. Koty Leeper reached base in the bottom of the fourth inning for the Marauders on a two-out line drive up the middle. After stealing second and reaching third on a passed ball, Leeper was left stranded on a strikeout of Zach Romanik by Majka.

Through four innings, each pitcher had not allowed a run, and Majka had seven strikeouts to Farnham-Dejesus’ eight.

Majka kept his dominant start rolling in the bottom of the sixth inning, striking out the top of the Dunkirk lineup in order. Through six innings, Majka had 12 strikeouts, while Farnham-Dejesus had 11 of his own.

The Thunderbirds went down in order again in the top of the seventh inning, setting the stage for a Dunkirk walk-off.

Majka wasn’t having any of that.

After Peyton Ahlstrom grounded out to start the bottom of the seventh, Majka struck out Leeper and Romanik back-to-back to end the seventh frame and send the game into extra innings. Through seven innings, Majka had 14 strikeouts.

“He’s Kyler Majka. It’s such a nice thing to see that kid finally get some of the recognition he deserves,” said Chautauqua Lake coach Bryan Bongiovanni. “That’s a name a lot of people are going to hear a lot of in the coming years.”

Farnham-Dejesus came back out to start the eight inning, and retired the first two batters he faced. After the second out of the inning — strikeout number 13 for Farnham-Dejesus — the Dunkirk ace was relieved due to his pitch count. Peyton Ahlstrom came in as the new pitcher for the Marauders with the bases empty and two outs in the eighth inning. Farnham-Dejesus finished with 7.2 innings pitched, three hits, no walks, and 13 strikeouts. He recieved a no-decision.

“It’s unfortunate that Farnham-Dejesus didn’t get a win,” said Bongiovanni. “He pitched very well.”

Peyton Ahlstrom walked the first batter he faced, but finished off the inning with a strikeout .

Nearing the pitch count limit himself, Majka took the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning to face the bottom of the Dunkirk order. After beginning with a strikeout, Danny Williams reached base for Dunkirk with one out. Next, Majka was called for a balk, which advanced the potential winning run into scoring position. Later in the at-bat, a stolen base put the winning run just 90 feet away.

With Alex Ahlstrom still at the plate, Majka appeared ready to deliver the pitch. Right as his wind-up began, Ahlstrom appeared to ask for timeout. As Ahlstrom stepped away from the box, Majka stopped his delivery. The home plate umpire signaled timeout was called, to the dismay of Dunkirk fans and Ahlstrom at the plate, who immediately turned to the umpire to argue for a balk. Ahlstrom was consoled by Jagoda and his teammates, before coming back to the plate after a nearly four minute delay. Majka followed with a strikeout of Ahlstrom for the second out of the inning.

“Our batter said he called for timeout, then (Majka) balked. I didn’t even question it. I didn’t see him call timeout, I didn’t see the umpire grant him timeout. Either way, we’ve got a guy at third, you can’t let your emotions get the best of you,” said Jagoda.

Majka was forced to leave the game after the second out, with over 100 pitches on the day. With the winning run on third base for Dunkirk, Bongiovanni made the call to replace Majka with one of his closest friends, co-captain Devin Pope.

“I was sad (to come out) but I knew that Devin would get the job done,” said Majka. “He’s an amazing player and one of my best friends. I always have faith in him.”

After a walk to Philip Messina, Farnham-Dejesus came to the plate with a chance to be the hero for Dunkirk. This time, it was Pope’s turn to shut down the Marauders’ walk-off attempt.

Pope struck Farnham-Dejesus out with a curveball at the knees to leave the runner stranded at third base. Pope bounced off the mound with his finger pressed to his lips, quieting the Dunkirk crowd.

“That’s a very difficult position to come into,” said Bongiovanni. “He put the team on his shoulders in that tough spot.”

Next, it was Pope’s turn to make a difference with his bat. Pope led off the ninth inning with a single up the middle. Brendon Rowe advanced Pope to second on a bunt, on which Rowe was also safe.

Then, with Majka at the plate, the Thunderbirds executed a double-steal. That put runners on second and third with no outs. Majka walked, which set up a bases loaded, no out at-bat for Bryce Rowe. Rowe smacked a sharply-hit ground ball to third base. The Dunkirk third baseman raced to third to force out Rowe, but Pope, running on contact, was able to score the game’s first run. Ahlstrom struck out the next two batters to close the inning.

Facing the heart of the Dunkirk order in the bottom of the ninth, Pope struck out the first batter, Jaziah Rivera, to lead off the inning. Next was Peyton Ahlstrom, who — after a long at-bat — eventually popped out. The last chance for Dunkirk was Leeper.

Pope took care of business once again, striking out Leeper for the final out of the game.

“The bigger the moment, the more ready he is. Those athletes are rare,” said Bongiovanni. “Devin never disappoints. We’re glad he’s on our side.”

Pope received credit for the win, pitching 1.1 innings of shutout ball with three strikeouts. He also scored the only run of the game, to go along with two hits. Majka finished with 7.2 innings pitched, three hits, one walk and 16 strikeouts.

“We each had our aces out there,” said Bongiovanni. “We knew it would be a low scoring ballgame. … It’s rare to see pitching like that nowadays. It was a pleasure to coach that game.”

Chautauqua Lake heads to Silver Creek next, on Tuesday. Dunkirk faces off with rival Fredonia on Monday.

Twitter: @bradencarmen