Wolverines rally on three separate occasions; get eliminated in extra innings
By David Yarger
The Niagara Falls Wolverines baseball team rallied three times to tie up their quarterfinal playoff game versus Orchard Park, but in the end, it wasn't enough to get past the Quakers.
The Wolverines were defeated by the Quakers, 5-4, in nine innings in the Section VI Class AA quarterfinals.
The game was a possible game of the year candidate, as both teams fought back and forth to gain leads.
Orchard Park got on the board quick versus Wolverines starter Treavor Janese, as Nate Wereski hit the first pitch into centerfield for a single. Janese got the next two batters out, but after a walk, Adam Riter laced a single to drive in Wereski.
Orchard Park starter Blake Harlock kept the Wolverines offense in check for the first two innings, sitting down the first six batters.
The Quakers struck again after Ryne Deitz doubled with one out in the third. The next batter, Tommy Evans, singled to drive Deitz in and make the score 2-0, in favor of Orchard Park.
The Wolverines answered in the third, as the No. 7 hitter Brian Hutchinson singled for the Falls' first hit of the game. The next batter, Jason Walker, came up and slammed a game-tying home run to left field to get the Wolverines back in the game.
Wolverines coach Rob Augustino said the heroics from the two at the bottom of the order wasn't a surprise to him and he added, "They have been getting better as the season went on. You could see it in the middle of the year - better swings, better at bats, better contact. I had full confidence in them."
After a quiet fourth inning, Orchard Park scored in the fifth, as Matt Bruno was hit by a pitch to lead things off. Following a single to get Bruno to third, Deitz grounded into a double play, scoring Bruno and making it 3-2, Quakers.
The score remained the same until the Wolverines' last at bats in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Walker started the rally with a one out walk and then Janese sent a ground ball single into left field. After AJ Kinney was hit by a pitch to load the bases, sophomore Zach Brydges hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Walker and tie the game, 3-3.
In the eighth, the Quakers had chances to put the game on ice. With one out, the 7-9 hitters hit singles to load the bases. Wereski hit a sacrifice fly to give the Quakers the lead, 5-4, but that's all OP could muster.
In the bottom half of the eighth, Dom Geracitano led off with a walk and then Mason Hilliard bunted Geracitano over to second base. After a flyout, Walker came up with two down and the game on the line. On a 3-2 pitch, Walker sent a drive to left field that bounced off the fence for a game-tying double - Walker's third RBI of the game.
Orchard Park refused to lose, though. Evans led the ninth inning off with a double, then with one out Riter singled, creating a situation with runners on first and third with one out. Josh Higgins came up next and drove in Evans with a sacrifice fly, giving the Quakers a 5-4.
After three rallies, the Wolverines couldn't muster a fourth and Higgins sat the Falls down one-two-three in the bottom of the ninth.
The win sends the Quakers to the Class AA semifinals where they'll play the winner of Lancaster and Jamestown at 5 p.m. Thursday.
After a shaky first inning, Janese found a bit of a groove against the Quaker offense. In the loss, Janese threw seven innings, struck out six and gave up three earned runs. Augustino was pleased about the outing from Janese after the first inning.
"In most first innings, you'll see that the most pitches he throws is in the first inning. ... It wasn't a surprise that he fell behind or that he had a little trouble with the pitches, but he threw 25 pitches in the first and he didn't come anywhere near that the rest of the game," Augustino said.
Coming back three times against an Orchard Park team that is in the running for a Section VI crown year-in and year-out is no easy feat, and Augustino said his biggest focus was trying to get his team to let the game come to them.
"It's about fighting, finding good pitches, hitting your pitches, knowing your zone, making the plays behind our pitchers, and we did those things today. It culminated with a great effort today," Augustino said.
Augustino will have to wave goodbye to six seniors - Quran Dubois, Santino Manzare, Anthony Coty, Kinney, Hutchinson and Walker. Augustino, who coached the six seniors on the junior varsity for their freshman and sophomore seasons and then their final two years on varsity, said he appreciated what the group brought to the team every day.
"I said, 'I appreciate the effort, I appreciate you guys being out here every day.' It's easy to coach them, probably, because I had them for four years. They knew everything, they were vocal, they were good leaders ... and they're going to be missed, because it's rare to find leadership like that," Augustino said.
Niagara Falls starter Treavor Janese throws a pitch in the first inning of the Wolverines' game versus Orchard Park.