‘ZZ’ tops ‘Billies

Zentz throws shutout, Dunkirk trims Fredonia 4-0

Dunkirk’s Zach Zentz delivers to the plate during Friday’s Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 baseball game at Fredonia Central School. OBSERVER Photo by Ashleigh Brown

Zach Zentz has given the Dunkirk community plenty to be proud of in his time as a Marauder.

Friday evening, one of Dunkirk’s best young leaders had a day to remember on the baseball diamond on the biggest stage a regular-season game could offer.

Zentz threw a complete game shutout in a rivalry showdown with Fredonia in a Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 game at Fredonia High School.

Zentz held the Hillbillies’ offense to just four hits and two walks to extend his personal scoreless streak to 21 consecutive innings.

Zentz, despite throwing a shutout on his rival’s field, said the performance was not his best. But for the moment itself, he put it at the top of his list.

Fredonia’s Matt Cowan, right, dives safely back to the bag before Dunkirk’s first baseman can apply a tag. OBSERVER Photo by Ashleigh Brown

“A senior win at Fredonia, this is the best,” Zentz said.”

The Dunkirk-Fredonia rivalry in many sports is extremely one-sided in Fredonia’s favor in recent years. In fact, as long as the current Dunkirk senior class — of which Zentz is the president — has been in high school, several varsity sports have not won a rivalry game against Fredonia. Although things are much more evenly matched in baseball, the pressure for Dunkirk to win is higher than ever, and Zentz welcomed that pressure yesterday.

“It’s Dunkirk-Fredonia. I’ll look back in 10 years and think, ‘Why didn’t I throw harder?’ … I just went at it, and it was so much fun,” Zentz said.

From watching loss after loss from the stands in other sports, Zentz has been biding his time, waiting for the chance to make his impact in a big way against Fredonia.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, I don’t care what anyone says. It is very true that it is a one-sided affair, and that ticks me off very much. There is no other way to say it. When I’m watching other sports I’m wishing I was in there to get them,” Zentz said. “But this is my chance to get in there and say, ‘Yes, let’s get them.'”

And he got them.

In a rivalry showdown with major implications in the division, both Dunkirk (10-7, 8-3) and Fredonia (12-4, 8-3) threw their aces.

First, Ashton Putney took the hill for Fredonia with a flawless record on the year, with a chance to solidify his candidacy for Player of the Year in the league.

Prior to Friday’s contest, not only had Putney not lost a game on the season, but the only run he allowed in league play was one of his inherited runners coming around to score off a relief pitcher.

After back-to-back overpowering strikeouts, Putney surrendered a two-out walk to Josh Lemanski. In the next at-bat, Lemanski stole second base. Then, shortly afterward, Greg Orcutt drilled a line drive over the infield to send Lemanski racing around the bases to score the game’s first run. For the first time all year, a league opponent made Putney look human, and the visiting Marauders gave their ace the ball with a lead before he threw a pitch.

“We kept it together the whole time. We were very positive the entire game,” Dunkirk head coach Frank Jagoda said. “… We were playing for each other. That’s our new moniker — for each other — and that’s what they did today.”

It turned out that first inning run was all the help Zentz needed from his offense. From that point on, it was the Dunkirk defense that needed its ace’s back, and the Marauders delivered.

Fredonia’s top six hitters did not muster a single hit in the game. Zentz weaved through the Fredonia lineup thanks to stellar, error-free defense from the Marauders. Through four innings, the early 1-0 lead held still, then in the top of the fifth, Zentz helped his own cause with an RBI double in the fifth inning to double Dunkirk’s lead. He was thrown out at third base after Paul Trippy III came around to score.

“It was a playoff game, both in atmosphere and execution. You tip your cap to Dunkirk, they made all the plays they needed to,” Fredonia head coach Tim Cowan said. “… That’s what a playoff game is going to look like. Every pitch matters, every play matters, and that’s just what we have to expect from every game out through the rest of the season.”

The Hillbillies had their best chance in the bottom of the fifth inning, with Putney at the plate with two runners on base. Putney lifted a deep drive to center field, but as was the case all evening, the Marauders made the play and avoided any damage.

“We didn’t cash in when we had the limited opportunities we did put together,” Cowan said. “… We had the guy up we wanted and got the bat on the ball.”

The Marauders added two more runs in the seventh inning to pull away, but Fredonia still challenged in the bottom of the seventh with two runners on base and Putney at the plate. But just like the rest of the contest, Zentz trusted his defense and the Marauders set Putney down to seal the shutout victory.

“I think coming in here just knowing that we needed to win, when Fredonia could have clinched a part of the league championship with a win, our back was against the wall,” Jagoda said. “When you put us against the wall, we’re going to play hard.”

Zentz had command of all of his pitches on Friday, with just two walks and a hit batter across seven frames. While he allowed four hits, all four came from the bottom third of the Fredonia lineup.

“We played really solid defense behind him today, and we kept their big guns off the bases,” said Jagoda.

Brady Helmer accounted for half of Fredonia’s hits, going 2 for 3 with a stolen base. A.J. Kinney also had a single, meaning Fredonia’s 8-9 hitters accounted for three of the four hits the team recorded on Friday. Colin Crowell, the 7-spot in the lineup, had Fredonia’s only extra-base hit, a double to deep left-center field. Crowell also had a walk, as did Colin Luce, while Andrew Cowan was hit by a pitch.

Jagoda noted Zentz has matured as a pitcher dramatically throughout the year, and his play backs up the “extra gear” Jagoda spoke of. Friday was the third straight shutout in league play for Zentz, beginning with a complete-game shutout against Allegany-Limestone, then Falconer, and finally, Fredonia. Dating back to his final two innings of work against Southwestern, Zentz has thrown up 21 consecutive zeros.

Zentz also paced Dunkirk’s offense on Friday with two hits and two runs batted in. Anthony Piede also had two hits, while Lemanski and Orcutt each had a run batted in. Gabe Valentine had a single and a run scored, as did Trippy III, while Henry Leone scored as a pinch runner after a single by Jon Ganey.

Putney struck out 10 batters and only allowed two walks. He allowed two runs through the first six innings before two more –one earned –came across in the seventh.

“It was a good high school game, period. You saw some quality pitching,” Jagoda said. “(Putney) came up big as well … but I’ll take my senior any day.”


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