Brocton earns spot in State Final Four with 6-4 win
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BATAVIA — Last year, the Brocton Bulldogs baseball team put the town of Brocton on the map, so that no one in New York State baseball circles would have to wonder where Brocton is.
While the rest of NY State has been getting used to where Brocton is, the Bulldogs are getting familiar with another spot in New York — Binghamton.
The Brocton Bulldogs baseball team punched its ticket to the State Final Four for the second straight season, with a 6-4 win on Saturday against the Section V champion Honeoye Bulldogs in a Far West Regional baseball game, at Dwyer Stadium, in Batavia.
“We talk about this all the time. Hard work will pay off,” said Brocton coach Rob Fetterick. “We’re doing all the small things that make us this successful.”
A year ago, Ronald “Bubba” Brown was the driving force to carry the Bulldogs to Binghamton — and Saturday was no different. Brown pitched a complete game to beat Honeoye, racking up 18 strikeouts — just one shy of the school record held by Steve Krystofiak, Brown’s battery-mate Jordan Krystofiak’s older brother.
“You can’t say enough about him,” said Fetterick of Brown on Saturday. “He’s been working his whole life for this. I couldn’t be happier for him. … He leads every single day and it shows. These kids will follow him anywhere.”
The theme of family didn’t stop there for the Bulldogs of Brocton. All year long, Coach Fetterick has praised how closely-knit his group has been. Saturday, as celebrations from every run that crossed the plate led to a bigger celebration after clinching back-to-back State appearances, the victorious Bulldogs in green enjoyed nearly every minute of Saturday’s win.
“These kids are so tight. They’re so family-oriented,” said Fetterick. “They go fishing together after practice. They hang out, they leave practice together, they ride to practice together. … They’re such a tight-knit group. That’s how we can come through in these games. Nothing can stop this team.”
Early on, Brown’s dominance on the mound was on full display. Brown began the first inning with strikeouts to start and to finish the frame. He struck out the side in order in both the second and third innings, then started the fourth inning with a strikeout for his eighth straight strikeout. At that point, Brown had struck out nine of the first 11 batters of the game, with only one baserunner allowed on a first inning single.
“We’ve had a lot of cold weather, but I like to throw in the heat,” said Brown. “We got a nice, warm day and I was just pumping strikes. I was getting my fastball by them and I was able to work my curveball too, to keep them off balance.”
To that point offensively, Brocton led 1-0 after a leadoff single in the top of the second inning by Brown led to a run scored on a wild pitch later in the frame.
With one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, Honeoye put the ball in play for the first time since the first inning. A high fly ball to the shortstop was lost in the sun and landed for a single for Honeoye’s Brett Higley — his second of three hits in the game individually. Brown struck out the next batter for his 10th strikeout of the contest, but then walked a batter to put the go-ahead run on base.
Honeoye — a team known for coming back — did what it does best with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. A two-out, two-run double by Charlie Furrell gave Honeoye the 2-1 lead.
“We knew it coming in,” said Fetterick. “They come back in games. Hats off to that coach and that team. That’s a fighting team over there — but this team we have, they’re fighting too.”
Brocton didn’t shy away from the fight in the slightest. The boys in green came back immediately in the top of the fifth inning to reclaim the lead. Darien Booker reached on a sharply-hit ball to shortstop that was scored as an error, then stole second base, advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher attempting to catch him stealing, and eventually came in to score on a wild pitch. Jordan Krystofiak came in to score the go-ahead run on a wild pitch, as well. Gabe Morello scored on a head-first slide into home on a sacrifice fly by Riley Rivera, then Derrick Burns scored on an RBI single by Brown — his third hit of the game — to extend the lead to 5-2 in favor of Brocton.
“We’re aggressive. We’re going to make people make plays,” said Fetterick.
Honeoye got two runs back in the bottom of the fifth, both coming with two outs yet again. All four Honeoye runs on Saturday came with two outs. Still, even after Higley’s third hit of the game, an RBI single to cut the Brocton lead to 5-4, Honeoye was unable to pull even the rest of the way.
“We have the saying that we’ll bend, but we won’t break,” said Brown. “We bent, but we were going to come right back because we don’t break.”
Thanks to an RBI single by Booker to score an insurance run, Brocton had a two-run lead with six outs to go. Brown recorded five strikeouts over the next seven at-bats, setting up one last showdown with Higley with two outs and a runner on base. Of all four of his at-bats on the day, Higley’s hardest hit ball came in the final showdown — it just so happened to be right at the Brocton second baseman, Derrick Burns. After Burns caught the screaming line drive, the Brocton Bulldogs officially earned another trip to Binghamton.
“They got a runner on second, but I knew we were up by two. I was just going to throw strikes, and if we make a play we’ve got a shot,” said Brown. “Our second baseman made a great catch and that was it.”
Brocton will play its semifinal matchup against Lisbon Central, on Friday at 2 p.m. at Conlon Field, in Binghamton. Lisbon, from Section X, beat Section VII’s Bolton on Saturday, 5-4.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself. We still have a game to play,” said Brown. “Last year, we lost the first game. This year, we need to keep going. I want to win it all.”
Look for coverage of Brocton’s run at States on Twitter: @bradencarmen.