Falcons hit three home runs, score 17 runs in two innings
By David Yarger
On Friday evening, the Niagara Falls Wolverines and Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons sent their ace pitchers out to the mound for a big Niagara Frontier League game at the Niagara Falls turf facility.
With two aces on the mound, majority of the crowd thought it would be a pitchers duel.
That was not the case, Friday.
The Falcons used 21 hits to defeat the Wolverines, 22-11, in a game where the score was not indicative of the gameplay throughout.
The Wolverines struck first against Falcons pitcher James Filippelli. After back to back walks and a single from Santino Manzare, No. 4 hitter Anthony Coty laced a double that drove in two runs. After another walk to load the bases with two outs, Brian Hutchinson followed with another walk to drive in Manzare.
Despite scoring three runs in their opening at bat, coach Rob Augustino still felt the team could've scored more and it could've been an even bigger momentum shifter.
"You get that game up to 5-0 or 6-0 things change," Augustino said. "There wasn't really that big hit to break the game open. ... One more single or a ball in the gap that makes it 6-0 - guess what? Things change. Does he pitch the same? ... Everything changes based on score and timing."
Leaving the bases loaded proved costly, as the Falcons were able to bounce back in the top of the second.
Filippelli helped his own cause with a leadoff single, Peyton Siegmann walked with one out and then after a fly out, sophomore Adam Liberti came up and hit a curveball deep for a clutch three-run home run to tie the game, 3-3.
Liberti's home run gave the Falcons confidence that they were back in the game and Liberti said he was just looking to make good contact.
"We were in the situation where I just really needed to piece up the ball really well, so I just focused on it and tried to get a good piece of bat on the ball," he said.
Falcons coach Jim Hagerty said Liberti's home run was big and it's great to get production from the younger guys on the team.
"It was huge," Hagerty said. "We have a young team and a little bit with the rough start, guys were looking around at each other looking for some leadership - nice thing to have a 10th grader provide it."
Filippelli found a groove in the next three innings. At one point, from the first to third inning, Filippelli's first seven outs of the game were via strikeout. Filippelli's day ended after four innings, with 8 strikeouts.
The Falcons went on top in the fourth inning via a two-out rally.
Liberti walked and then Kyle Stenzel doubled to get Liberti to third. Liberti later scored on a passed ball. Following a walk to Andrew Stillinger, Steve Roulley singled to drive in Stenzel, giving N-W a 5-3 lead.
The Wolverines answered back in the fifth inning via the long ball.
After Coty was hit by a pitch to lead off, Dom Geracitano hit a game-tying home run to left-center field. Two batters later, Hutchinson geared up on a fastball and hit a no-doubt-about-it shot to the parking lot in left field, giving the Wolverines the lead again, 6-5.
Remember ... it was 6-5 heading into the sixth inning in favor of the Wolverines.
From the sixth inning on, it was all Falcons. Anything thrown towards a Niagara-Wheatfield hitter was put in play.
The Falcons answered the Wolverines comeback with a six-run explosion.
With two runners on, the Wolverines seemed to be out of the inning with no damage done, as Ethan Guthrie hit a line drive out to right field, but the ball was dropped and two runs scored. From there, four more runs came across to score, highlighted by a Peter Lysiak two-run single and an RBI single from Liberti.
The Falcons led, 11-6, heading into the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Wolverines refused to go down without a fight, though, as a Quran Dubois single up the middle drove in two runs and then an AJ Kinney infield single drove in Dubois, making it 11-9.
Despite the Wolverines gaining ground, it just didn't matter to the Falcons offense.
Niagara-Wheatfield put up an 11-run seventh inning, which included the first eight batters coming around to score and two home runs.
Filippelli singled to drive in a run, Chris Cacciatore doubled to drive in two, Filippelli scored on a wild pitch, Cacciatore scored on a throw down to second base from the catch, Lysiak homered to left-center field to drive in two more, freshman Tyler Walton tripled to drive in Liberti, Guthrie singled home Walton and then Billy Scullion had the finishing touches with a deep two-run blast to right field.
When it was all said and done, the Falcons held a 22-9 lead. The N-W had just scored 17 of their 22 runs in two innings.
Hagerty was impressed by the output.
"Everybody went up there swinging," Hagerty said. "It was huge for us. We had the lead, we gave up the lead. It was huge for us to get it back so quickly after that. Honestly, we just hit the ball really well today."
Liberti said the two innings were huge for the team.
"We were all very hyped and uplifted, so it was very emotional and it really went forward into the game," Liberti said.
Niagara Falls added two in the bottom of the seventh, but the deficit was too large and the final was 22-11.
For the Falcons, Liberti finished 3-3 with three runs scored and four RBIs. Lysiak also drove in four runs, while Stillinger and Filippelli had three hits apiece. Siegmann and Guthrie each had two hits and three runs scored.
For the Wolverines, Hutchinson finished the day 2-3 with three RBIs, Geracitano finished 2-3 with three runs and three RBIs, and Coty went 2-3 with two RBIs.
Both teams were 8-4 in NFL play coming in, but with league foe Grand Island having clinched the league title, the two teams were merely playing for sectional seeding points. With the Falcons win, N-W gains five sectional points, due to Niagara Falls' status as an AA school. Hagerty said the points are huge at a time like this.
"The points are big and ... we kind of leapfrogged them in the sectional standings a little bit. Now we have to finish strong," Hagerty said.
Augustino said the goal for the Wolverines has to be to win out and put themselves in a better spot.
"We gotta find a way to throw strikes, still have quality at bats. Most games you score 11 runs, you're not going to lose. ... So keep grinding out our at bats and keep scoring runs and hopefully ... try to get a home game (for sectionals)," Augustino said.
Both teams suit back up tomorrow with the Wolverines (8-5 NFL) playing at 2 p.m. at Lewiston-Porter, while the Falcons (9-4) play at 10 a.m. at Lockport.