Instant Classic Rewinds, Part II

Dunkirk defeats mighty Fredonia in thrilling contest

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Dunkirk’s Peyton Ahlstrom celebrates after striking out Fredonia’s Trey Swartz for the second out of the bottom of the eighth inning during a CCAA Division 1 West baseball game between Dunkirk and Fredonia, May 17, 2019, at Chestnut Street Field, in Fredonia. Dunkirk won the game, 3-2.

Editor’s Note: This is the second among a series of memorable games from the high school spring sports season revisited throughout the summer.

In recent years, the dominance of the Fredonia Hillbillies baseball program has taken some of the flare out of the Dunkirk-Fredonia rivalry on the diamond. This year, however, was a different story.

On Friday, May 17, the Dunkirk Marauders faced off with the Fredonia Hillbillies at Chestnut Street Field in a game for the ages. After multiple rainouts throughout the year, the first rivalry showdown came with the postseason right around the corner. However, it was clear from the onset that this year’s showdown didn’t lack in terms of drama.

Each team tabbed its ace as the starting pitcher for the game — Fredonia with Trey Swartz and Dunkirk with Peyton Ahlstrom. Immediately, the drama presented itself. In the top of the first inning, Swartz picked off a runner at first base and shouted in excitement as he ran off the field. Swartz led off the bottom of the first inning and was drilled by a pitch by Ahlstrom, which sparked a heated exchange from both side’s fans. Fredonia’s side, along with Hillbillies head coach Vince Gullo, clearly thought the hit-by-pitch was intentional, which Coach Gullo relayed to the umpires. Swartz was retired after a popped up sacrifice bunt attempt led Swartz to be doubled off first base. A groundout followed to end the frame, passing the baton to Ahlstrom to boldly celebrate, just as Swartz did after the top half of the frame.

“It got hairy in the first few innings because we had adults that need to act more like adults,” said Dunkirk head coach Frank Jagoda, referencing the dispute between the fans in the bottom of the first inning.

Fredonia immediately came out ready in the bottom half of the second frame, after Dunkirk was retired in order. Fredonia cleanup hitter Troy Lanski ripped a leadoff double down the first base line, then advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Anthony Gullo. Dom Gullo followed with a daring squeeze bunt that scored Lanski, who slid in safely at home to beat the tag. Fredonia doubled its lead to 2-0 on a deep drive to left field off the bat of Will Schmitt. Later in the inning, Ahlstrom hit another batter, Gabe Schrader. While that only added fuel to the fire of the vocal Fredonia fans, the Hillbillies were unable to capitalize, leaving runners on base to end the frame.

After the second inning, Dunkirk held a team conference to regroup — and it sure did work.

“We brought the kids together in the third inning and told them not to think about anything else — not any interference from anybody here — and play baseball,” said Coach Jagoda. “These guys settled down, they got their mind right, and they played good, solid baseball.”

The Marauders immediately answered with a pair of their own in the top of the third inning. A one-out double to deep left field by Koty Leeper represented Dunkirk’s first hit of the contest. After Dunkirk’s Tristan Skelly walked, Phil Messina drilled a line drive right back at the head of Swartz that scored Dunkirk’s first run of the game. Jared Glowniak followed with a ground ball to second base to score Skelly, leaving the game tied at 2-2 in the top of the third inning.

From that point on, the pitchers took over. Ahlstrom retired 10 straight Fredonia batters after the hit-by-pitch of Gabe Schrader, and set down 15 out of 16 batters through seven innings.

“Peyton was the boss on the mound,” said Coach Jagoda.

Swartz did much of the same to the Marauders’ offense. Through six innings, Swartz allowed four hits and one walk, while recording eight strikeouts, but after the sixth inning, he was forced to leave the game because of his pitch count.

“Trey did a nice job, he kept us in the game,” said Coach Gullo.

As the game advanced to an extra inning, Dunkirk threatened in the top of the eighth frame. With one out and a pair on base, a ground ball to shortstop off the bat of Ahlstrom appeared to be the double-play ball Fredonia needed to escape the inning — but that wasn’t the case. The throw to first base went wide of the bag and Dunkirk’s lead runner came around to score the go-ahead run to give Dunkirk a 3-2 advantage.

Then, Ahlstrom took the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning, needing three outs for a Dunkirk victory. However, like Swartz earlier in the game, he was closing in on the pitch count limit. Ahlstrom started off the bottom of the eighth with a strikeout of a pinch hitter, then faced Swartz one last time, knowing it would be his final batter regardless of the result. That result was certainly a favorable one for Dunkirk, as Ahlstrom notched his 10th strikeout of the game, retiring Swartz to put the Marauders within an out of a victory.

Dunkirk had Glowniak come on in relief to record the final out — but it went down in a fittingly dramatic way. Fredonia’s Alec Schrader drilled a ball into the right-center field gap, but as he rounded second base, he slipped on the bag. He was tagged out on the basepaths to end the game.

“I don’t think anyone wanted to end it on an over-run bag, but we’ll take anything we can get,” said Coach Jagoda after the game. “I’m just proud of the kids for how they battled all day.”

Even despite the loss, Fredonia saw the positives in the competitive contest.

“It was a great game,” said Coach Gullo. “Both teams had kids have chances to win the game. You learn a lot in losses, and my kids tried real hard today. They’re so young and they’ve got to enjoy games like this.”

As classic of a contest as that day’s was, it was the end of a streak for the ages in the Dunkirk-Fredonia rivalry. After 13 straight losses dating back to 2012, Friday, May 17 was the day the Dunkirk Marauders were finally able to end mighty Fredonia’s streak of dominance to take the throne atop the cross-town rivalry.

Twitter: @bradencarmen