Taking a look back at the Dunkirk Marauders 1988 Class B State Championship run
Remembering past champions
Editor’s Note: This story was put together by looking at past OBSERVER articles written by Jerry Reilly and Kyle Kubera in 1987 and 1988.
In 2019, the Dunkirk girls bowling team snapped a 21 year drought of team state championships won by Dunkirk High School. Prior to the Lady Marauders dominant run, another dominant team held the title as the last state champion, the 1988 Dunkirk High School baseball team.
While other Dunkirk boys teams have had runs to the state Final Four, like the 2011 baseball team and the 2016 football team, none were able to replicate the big game heroics displayed by the members of the 1988 baseball team.
This year, both the Dunkirk girls basketball and bowling teams looked poised to win state championships. Both teams had big moments by big time players, including Makayla Pasierb’s 300 game that helped the bowling team advance to States and Kymi Nance’s heroics in the sectional championship game against Southwestern to advance to the Far West Regionals.
Last Monday, NYSPHSAA announced that it was officially cancelling the 2020 Winter Championships, ending the playoff runs of both teams. The decision is one truly heartbreaking for all of the athletes involved and has robbed all the athletes of creating more magical moments for themselves and their fans.
Since we won’t be seeing any great high school sports moments in the near future, I offer a look back at one of the best Dunkirk High School playoff runs. In the 1988 season, the Dunkirk boys baseball team with a ton of skill and a little bit of luck delivered the school’s first team State Championship.
The run to glory
After the disappointing loss in the Far West Regionals one year prior, the 1988 Dunkirk baseball team looked like a group determined to get back there. The Marauders 1988 team was bringing back a roster that had plenty of players win the 1987 Class B sectional title. In 1987, the Marauders were able to make it out of Section VI, but fell short of going to the State Final Four at the hands of Section V Chenango Forks, 5-4.
In the 1988 regular season, Dunkirk posted a strong 18-3 record, but they still had to travel on the road for their Class B-1 quarterfinal game. In the quarterfinal, Dunkirk traveled to Cazenovia Park in Buffalo to play the Seneca Vocational Indians. The Marauders had no problem at all with the Indians as they thrashed them 17-1. Both David Orth and Brad O’Brocta combined for a one-hitter, but their elite pitching performance was not necessary as the offense exploded for 17 runs. Bob Karin had four RBI and Bob Krzyzanowicz went 5-for-5 leading the way offensively for Dunkirk. After their emphatic victory a semifinal date with Tonawanda was set.
Once again, Dunkirk saw familiar elite pitching from Orth as he combined for a no-hitter with Krzyzanowicz on the way to a 9-3 victory. So through two playoff games in 1988, Dunkirk had only surrendered one hit and four runs and had managed to score an impressive 26 runs.
While the score and no-hitter makes it look like Dunkirk had no problem with Tonawanda, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Krzyzanowicz struggled early on the hill as he walked five batters and allowed three runs on no hits, which led to Orth coming in for relief. After walking his first batter, Orth was lights out as he set down 15 in a row, including nine strikeouts. Much of the offense came from John Elias going 3-for-5 with an RBI and Joe Wisniewski going 2-for-4 while driving in three runs.
The first bit of luck in their magical state run came early. In the Class B-1 championship game against Pioneer, the Marauders were saved by the rain. On the original date of June 1, 1988, Dunkirk was set to face Pioneer with Dave Buncy on the hill. Two things happened that day. Buncy pitched lights out and the rain came down. After about three innings of play, Pioneer’s pitcher Dave Buncy was working with a 1-0 lead and a no-hit bid. It seemed that the Marauder’s run at a state title was going to come to an end. At least until the rain came.
After hard rain, the game was called against Pioneer, but was to be restarted the next day. On the next day it was a true Jekyll and Hyde performance by the offense as they shelled four Pioneer pitchers for 15 hits and 15 runs. Every Dunkirk batter had a RBI in the game and Krzyzanowicz improved his season record to 10-0 with 13 strikeouts in the 15-2 win.
On June 3, Dunkirk got right back to work, this time with senior ace Orth on the mound. Orth pitched another gem in the Class B crossover championship game against Starpoint, winning 13-1. John Elias stood out as the offense leader with five RBI while going 3-for-4 with a 3-run home run.
Dunkirk’s second consecutive Class B clincher set up a rematch with Chenango Forks who spoiled their 1987 season with a narrow 5-4 victory. Knowing they would need their best to get by Chenango Forks, Dunkirk’s well rested Orth was headed to the mound. Orth pitched the biggest game of his high school career as he no-hit Chenango Forks in a 2-1 victory that punched Dunkirk’s ticket to the State Final Four for the first time in their history.
Even with Orth throwing a gem, it appeared like Chenango Forks was going to get the better of Dunkirk yet again. Orth harmlessly walked the first batter of the game in Kevin Peet. Unfortunately, Peet was light on his feet as he stole second, then stole third and advanced home on a wild pitch. So Dunkirk trailed 1-0 without even surrendering a hit.
After walking Peet, Orth retired 13 consecutive batters, but that was all for naught as Gene Bartlow mirrored Orth through five innings, minus giving up the run. Fortunately for Dunkirk, Bartlow would eventually crack as Bob Karin used his speed around the bases. Karin made his way to the base paths via a walk and was moved into scoring position in short order after a wild pick-off attempt. Now in scoring position, that set the table for Kevin Jasinski to tie the game on the first hit as he lined an 0-2 pitch into right field and made it 1-1, setting us up for one of the biggest moments in Dunkirk baseball history.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Jasinski made his way onto the bases again, this time through a walk. Jasinski was moved into scoring position thanks to a sac bunt, but now with two outs a hit was surely needed to seal the deal. Junior catcher John Elias stepped up with a chance to exorcise the demons of losing to Chenango Forks last year by creating a little heartbreak of his own. Bang! Just like that, John Elias took an 0-1 fastball into centerfield, scoring Kevin Jasinski and sending the Marauders to their first State Final Four, 2-1.
After defeating Chenango Forks the Marauders were now headed into uncharted territory on June 11, 1988. That was the date of the Marauders state semifinal game against Section IX’s Port Chester.
Once again, when it mattered most, Dunkirk went to its star senior pitcher, David Orth. While some will be eager to point out that it was Orth’s worst playoff game in two years, the senior still did what was needed of him to get to the state championship game.
Orth gave up seven hits in the win, but Port Chester was only able to manage three runs against the Marauders’ ace, while Dunkirk’s offense provided five runs, all in the fourth inning. The semifinal victory was the quintessential team effort as not one Marauder had multiple hits and five different Marauders scored on the way to a hard-fought 5-3 win. The win set a date with Section VII Peru on June 12, 1988 in the Class B New York State Championship game.
After using Orth to get to the state title game, Dunkirk handed the ball over to the undefeated junior Bob Krzyzanowicz. Krzyzanowicz cemented his name in Dunkirk sports history while holding a 3-2 lead, with the bases loaded and still needing two outs. Dunkirk coach Bill Walters went to take him out of the game, but Krzyzanowicz refused his coach as he was determined to get the team out of the pickle he had gotten them in.
Bill Walters was quoted after the game saying: “I let him (Krzyzanowicz) go for it because he worked hard for it. All you could do was pray for him at that point and hope that he threw strikes.”
Krzyzanowicz answered those prayers of strikes. Right after the mound visit, Peru DH Mike Zeglis stepped up to the plate and was promptly struck out. Now one out away, Krzyzanowicz had a one-on-one with the batter, Don Abernathy at the plate. Similar to Zeglis, Krzyzanowicz took the pressure off of his teammates and struck out Abernathy, stranding all three baserunners and delivering Chautauqua County its first baseball state championship.
Krzyzanowicz pitched a five hitter in the biggest game of his life, while also walking five batters, throwing three wild pitches and punching out 14 — along with two unheld third strikes — in his 130-pitch plus win.
Despite Krzyzanowicz’s heroics in the state title game, the Tournament MVP went to Todd Alessi. Alessi was the culprit in breaking the hearts of Peru fans when he scored the go ahead run in the top of the seventh. Alessi had three hits in the championship game, including a double and scoring the game winning run courtesy of a Kevin Jasinski single to right field.
Since 1988, the Dunkirk High School Marauders baseball program has had some great teams, but none quite like the team headlined by pitchers Dave Orth and Bob Krzyzanowicz. What made the 1988 team special was not just the superb playoff pitching, but when each pitcher needed to rely on the offense, that call was always answered.
The most recent Dunkirk baseball team to come close to reaching the mountain top was the 2011 squad that made it past the Far West Regionals with a 9-3 victory over Section V’s Hornell. But they were unable to get past the State Semifinal as they were disposed of by Section I Briarcliff, 6-2.
The 1988 baseball team still stands as the last boys team to win a state title, while the most recent run came on the gridiron with Dunkirk falling in the state semifinals in 2016 to a familiar foe, Chenango Forks, 41-8.
While we have been robbed of the winter playoffs, one thing for certain is that nobody will be able to erase any of the accomplishments of the great athletes in the history books already.