Thunderbirds win playoff game, 12-1
MAYVILLE — Kyler Majka’s next loss will be the last game of his high school career.
He made sure it didn’t come Friday.
Chautauqua Lake’s ace right-hander threw a two-hitter with 16 strikeouts as the eighth-seeded Thunderbirds beat No. 9 Ellicottville, 12-1, in Section VI Class C prequarterfinal action.
“That’s probably the best that I have seen him all year. He was pinpoint, not only with his fastball, but with his curveball,” Chautauqua Lake coach Bryan Bongiovanni said. ” … It’s hard to think that he could be better than he has been this year, but I think he somehow reached that today.”
Needing just 10 pitches to navigate a three-strikeout first inning, Majka showed he was at his best.
Most of the Eagles hitters didn’t stand a chance.
“He is as advertised. We had no answer for him,” Ellicottville coach Chris Mendell said of Majka. “He had command of the zone all night. His offspeed pitches were there. It was impressive.”
Mixing an overpowering fastball with a tight breaking ball, Majka struck out the side in the first and last innings while striking out two in each of the middle five innings.
“It’s probably the best I’ve felt all year,” Majka said. “My curveball was working, the fastball was grooving. Everything felt pretty good today.”
Maybe more impressively, the senior faced just three batters over the minimum and needed only 84 pitches to finish the game.
“He just pounded the zone,” Mendell said. “There was no taking pitches with him.”
The low pitch count sets up Majka to return to the mound for Tuesday’s quarterfinal game at No. 1 Holland.
“Efficiency is key. He was able to attack the hitters. A lot of their hitters were four pitches or less. Now he lines up nicely for Tuesday,” Bongiovanni said. “He didn’t have to max out. Now he’s going to be fresh.”
A dropped third strike prolonged Chautauqua Lake’s first at-bat and a pair of errors allowed the Thunderbirds to push across two runs.
“Wyatt Chudy broke his leg against Frewsburg so we had to move some guys around. … He was one of our best overall players,” Mendell said. “That definitely hurt our team defensively.”
Chautauqua Lake broke the game open with a five-run second inning that included five hits, two walks and an Ellicottville error. Zach Fischer and Majka both singled and scored in the inning that was highlighted by Nate Engdahl’s two-run single. A Luke Waters groundout and a sacrifice fly from Tate Olson also plated runs for the hosts.
“We stuck it pretty well Nos. 1-9 today. You can see the confidence with each at-bat. We’ve been battling all year,” Bongiovanni said. “To get them going early is nice. To give Kyler a nice lead and let us settle into the game, we kind of took that confidence from there and rolled with it.”
Zach Martin was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on an error in the fifth inning to give the Thunderbirds an 8-1 lead. In the bottom of the sixth, Fischer and Majka had RBI singles while two more runs scored on wild pitches.
“There is a lot more pressure off me when we get a lead,” Majka said. ” … I can keep it under control after that.”
Every player in the Chautauqua Lake starting lineup reached base with seven of them scoring runs. The Thunderbirds will need that production again Tuesday to back Majka and pull off an upset of the Dutchmen.
“He works all offseason for this,” Bongiovanni said of Majka. “When we get to that next level in the playoffs he’s ready. He somehow finds a way to pick it up another notch.”
NOTES: Martin and Ellicottville’s Ryan Dekay doubled for the game’s only extra-base hits. … The Eagles’ only other hit was an RBI single by Brett Kryniski that plated Dekay in the second inning. … Freshman Lucas Marsh took the loss, throwing four innings and striking out two before Dekay relieved and struck out three in the final two innings.