The Grand Island Vikings had a rocky finish to the year, losing four of their last five games in the Niagara Frontier League. They showed no effects of that skid Friday vs. North Tonawanda.
The No. 3 Vikings defeated their NFL foe, No. 6 North Tonawanda Lumberjacks, 9-1 in the quarterfinals of the A-1 bracket.
They were led by their starting pitcher, southpaw Bryce Jellinick. The senior ace threw six innings of two-hit, shutout baseball, with five strikeouts.
Coach Dean Santorio said he was pleased with Jellinick's bounce-back outing, after losing his last two starts.
"He's had a great three years for us," Santorio said. "I wouldn't have expected much different. I think he's disappointed in his last two outings, and actually he didn't pitch poorly in them. He was doing really well until late," he said. "I would've expected him to do what he did today, just going and pitching the way he has for three years. We couldn't have asked for more out of him today."
Behind Jellinick's arm, the Vikings bats gave their pitcher all the support he needed.
After a one-two-three inning in the first, Grand Island loaded the bases for designated hitter Frank DePalma. DePalma laced a grounder up the middle to score Cam Sionko and Jellinick, giving the Vikings a 2-0 lead.
Grand Island didn't let up, and in the third inning the team added three more runs, highlighted by Sean Pufpaff's RBI triple. DePalma also notched his third RBI in the inning. He finished 3-4 with four RBIs and a run scored.
Jellinick continued to deal in the fourth inning, as he induced a ground ball double play to cancel any threat from the Jacks. After a walk in that inning, Jellinick retired the next eight Lumberjacks hitters.
In that same inning, Pufpaff added another RBI with a single to drive in Tyler Muggli.
In the fifth inning, Easton Speer drove in DePalma with an RBI single to make it 7-0 Grand Island.
The Vikings scored two more in the sixth, their fifth straight inning scoring a run. Sionko drove in pinch runner Luke Traina, and then DePalma notched his fourth RBI with a double, scoring Sionko, and making it 9-0.
The Jacks scored one in the seventh inning off a Colin Rambler groundout, which scored Ben Kolbe. The Jacks had run out of outs, and the final score was 9-1, Grand Island.
Santorio said he was happy to get the win after a rough ending to the regular season.
"We needed Bryce to get off to a good start today and be efficient, and he was," Santorio said. "The way we hit the ball up the middle was a big difference today, and we didn't get too anxious and try to pull too many pitches. I'm happy with our approach at the plate; it was good today and we didn't make any mistakes. We did what we should've done and Bryce pitched a hell of a game."
Art Meaney finished the game 3-4 with two runs scored for the Vikings, while Sionko and Pufpaff each had two hits and had one and two RBIs, respectively. The three, four and five hitters for Grand Island combined to go 7-11 with six runs score and three RBIs.
Next up for the Vikings is the No. 2 seed Williamsville South Billies. The Vikings played the Billies late in the regular season, defeating them 13-5. Santorio said that, even though his team won, it doesn't give the Vikings an advantage on Monday.
"I think they sat eight out of nine starters in that game," Santorio said. "So, I didn't get a good look at who they really have in the lineup and what they do defensively. They're gonna be a good baseball team. They're not the No. 2 seed by chance; they're a good baseball team. ... I'm not gonna look at that game at all, because I know that's not their lineup."
The Vikings will be on the road vs. Will-South. The A-1 semifinal game will be played at 5 p.m. Monday.
Area playoff scores
Lewiston-Porter 4, Kenmore East 0
Starpoint 7, Amherst 5
Niagara Wheatfield 5, Frontier 4