Dan Stilson, who drove in the dramatic game-winning hit, was 3-for-3. He shares a laugh with Avoca-Prattsburgh coach Dennie Miles. (Tricia Davenport photo)
Stories by CHRIS BROOKS and BOB TROUT, photos by STEVE HARRISON and TRICIA DAVENPORT
The Naples Big Green Machine has been on a roller coaster of a season, but the team peaked at the right time heading into the Section V tournament.
The incredible ride ended when No. 2 Avoca-Prattsburgh won with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 7th for a 5-4 victory.
With the win, Avoca-Prattsburgh (19-3) will take on No. 1 and defending champion Fillmore (17-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hornell’s Maple City Park.
Fillmore, won states in soccer, has the pitching and hitting to go for a rare two state titles in one school year. Fillmore downed Arkport-Canaseraga 10-9 to reach the finals (story below).
Naples (12-9) took a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth when Drew Reigelsperger laced a single to right that got past the right fielder and went to the fence, Reigelsperger never stopped running and slid in safe at home for the lead, scoring Cade Rathbun.
Avoca-Prattsburgh was down to their last four outs. In the bottom of the sixth trailing 4-3 with two outs, Evan Campbell, a senior, walked and stole second. Connor Hammond then blasted a RBI single to score Campbell and tie the game at 4-4.
Jamel Crowder, in on relief for starter Haden Abbott, coaxed a groundout to Abbott, also a senior, at shortstop. The next batter, Adam Bay, lined a shot to center field that could have been a triple, but A-P senior Sawyer Devoe made an incredible, running catch. Crowder, a senior, got a strikeout to end the inning and the momentum shifted.
It was Naples’ turn to flash the leather as Abbott led off the bottom of the seventh with a blistering line drive to deep left-center. But Naples left fielder, sophomore Lukas Hall, made an incredible catch.
With one out, junior Macoy Putnam punched a single through the infield and stole second. He went to third on a base hit by Crowder, who stole second to erase the force. A-P sophomore Dan Stilson then hit a laser to the outfield to drive in the winning run, sending A-P to the finals.
Crowder picked up the win throwing two scoreless innings with four strikeouts and no walks. Abbott started and struck out eight in five innings and allowed just one earned run.
“It was a gutsy performance to pull it out. Certainly, you have to feel bad for Naples because they played a whale of a game and had us in a fight where we were against the ropes,” said A-P coach Dennie Miles. “We did enough little things right to win the game.”
For A-P, Dan Stilson was 3-for-3 with a run, Crowder had two hits and a run, Josiah Stilson had a RBI and Blake McConnell blasted a RBI double.
For the Naples Big Green Machine, Charlie Grove had two hits, Oliver Bruen each had two hits, Traugott Uhlen and Donivan Todd had one.
Sophomore Grady Grove pitched 6.1 innings with three strikeouts and four walks. His older brother, senior Charlie Grove, pitched a masterpiece in the quarterfinals to get Naples closer to the finals, but he was out of pitches for the contest on Wednesday night in Prattsburgh.
(Fillmore story after photo gallery of A-P games)
Class D1 Semifinals
No. 1 Fillmore 10, No. 4 Arkport/Canaseraga 9 (F-8)
FILLMORE — It can be one of the more difficult feats for a team to try and accomplish. Defeating a single opponent three different times in a season can be no slouch, but if it can be done, it can provide a feeling of euphoric satisfaction.
The chance for one team to do just that, arose. That being the top-seeded Eagles of Fillmore.
With two outstanding battles up against the No. 4 Arkport/Canaseraga Wolves already in the wagon, what better way to ring in the third and final clash than with a chance to claim a spot in this weekend’s Class D1 Finals in what was another instant classic at the Town Park, in a season series finale in the Semifinal round that saw a combined 19 runs and 22 hits come to complete fruition on offense.
With a 3-1 lead against the Wolves in hand after the early sequences reached its conclusion, the balance of power swayed in each and every direction all across the middle frames, with each team trading leads left and right until the visitors in black and teal came up with the final response to tie the game at nine, forcing extra innings.
It was a similar predicament that the Eagles avoided earlier this year at the Town Park against the Wolves, as they rallied back to take a 4-3 win behind Aiden Wagner’s walk-off smack in the bottom of the seventh in their first meeting.
But when the bottom of the eighth came around this time, the Eagles would do it again.
Yes, you guessed it. For the second time this season against Arkport/Canaseraga, Aiden Wagner came through in the clutch again for the Eagles. With the game hanging in the balance and a return trip to the Class D1 Finals looming over the horizon, the Fillmore senior ensured that they got another chance to defend their throne, lining a base hit into the outfield to score the game-winning run, sending the home dugout and crowd into hysterics as they clinched a Finals berth in dramatic fashion with a 10-9 win.
“Arkport/Canaseraga is a deep team, and they’re such a great team. We played them three times this year, and every one of those could have gone either way,” said Eagles coach Bill Nolan. “Hats off to Nick (Smith) and his team, they’re amazing ballplayers and they’re a fun group to watch and to go up against. We spread out the ball really good across the lineup, and in a big game like this, you need that. We had our fair share of mistakes, but these guys don’t quit. That’s the spirit of the game these kids have.”
Every single batter in the Fillmore (17-1) lineup recorded at least a hit to power up the offense, which began in the bottom of the second after both squads traded scoreless barbs in the first. The Eagles soared to an early 3-0 lead with Damon Potter’s big bat, as he launched a big ball out of the park for a three-run blast that left in an absolute hurry, breaking the ice in a big way to get the defending Class D1 champions started in the second.
Arkport/Canaseraga was able to catch on however, as a marathon of run exchanging soon began in the top of the third with their opening run, ultimately navigating towards a 3-3 tie with two big runs in the fourth inning.
For the next four halves of offense, both the Wolves and Eagles each traded three-run frames up until the visitors tied the game once and for all in the top of the sixth to force another instant classic into an extra session.
In it, came an absolutely clutch inning of baseball for Fillmore. One that started with a quick 1-2-3 on the field against the Wolves to keep them frozen in their tracks before transitioning the momentum back to the plate for what would be their final stand of attack. With game-winning damage aboard the bases, the remainder of the game lied on the shoulders of Aiden Wagner, who would once again send the Eagles into a walk-off frenzy with his single into the outfield to score the winning run in the bottom of the eighth to capture a spot in this weekend’s Class D1 title game.
All together, Fillmore produced 10 runs off 12 total hits, with every single Eagle in the lineup all recording at least a hit. Among them was Potter, who had two hits including his three-run blast, scoring three times himself on special teams to further his own cause. Nolan Krzeminski had two hits to add in along with an RBI, while James Hillman blasted a two-run triple to help keep the wheels turning during the middle frame bonanza alongside the Wolves.
On the mound, Mitch Ward struck out three and walked one in his three inning start for the Eagles, but the win was awarded to his senior teammate Brent Zubikowski, who came on in relief in the last two innings to keep the Wolves at an absolute standstill by recording a strikeout along the way.
For Arkport/Canaseraga, Micah Marvin and Bryer Drake combined to record five of the team’s 10 hits at the plate, with Marvin scoring three of them. On the mound, Logan Hoyt fanned four and walked two during his start that stretched into the fifth inning for the Wolves.
The stage is now set for a Saturday afternoon rematch at Maple City Park in Hornell, as top-seeded Fillmore now gets set for battle once again with No. 2 Avoca/Prattsburgh, who defeated No. 3 Naples in walk-off fashion themselves, for the Class D1 crown. First pitch has yet to be determined.
Arkport/Canaseraga 001 233 00 – 9 10 4
Fillmore 030 330 01 – 10 12 5
A/C – Logan Hoyt (4K, 2BB), Titus Marvin (5) (5K, BB), Micah Marvin (LP, 7) (3K, 3BB) and Bryer Drake.
FIL – Mitch Ward (3K, BB), Damon Potter (4) (2K, 3BB), Luke Colombo (6) (K, BB), Brent Zubikowski (WP, 7) (K) and Nolan Krzeminski.
Class B2 Semifinals
No. 3 Bath-Haverling 3, No. 7 Wellsville 1
BATH — It was a season filled with adversity that the Lions of Wellsville had to overcome since the very beginning. Through everything that had stood in their way, the No. 7 seeds had found themselves one single step away from reaching the Finals. With wins in four of the last five games, they were beginning to warm up.
There was no better time for the heat to rise than on Wednesday in Bath, where the Lions went toe-to-toe and raced stride-for-stride alongside Class B2’s reigning champion Rams. With a trip to the Finals on the line this weekend, something had to give between the two baseball rivals. After their 16-13 affair in Wellsville earlier this season, things would begin to tighten up.
But when a tone was set, it was going to be hard to match. For Bath-Haverling, baserunning made all the difference.
After three scoreless innings, the Rams went to work on some strong base running against the Lions, using it to cash in on their first run of the game before adding two more along the way to branch out their lead. Given one last chance to do some damage in the late stages of the battle, Wellsville would ultimately fall short in the end, as their season came to a close in a 3-1 victory for the Rams to punch their return ticket back to the Class B2 Finals this weekend.
“These kids will be licking their wounds for a little while, but it was a highly competitive nail-biter. It’s frustrating to come out on the tail end of it,” said Lions coach Tom Delahunt. “We had several opportunities with runners on base earlier in the game, and we couldn’t capitalize on those situations. We made some noise later in the seventh to give them everything we had left, but it would prove to be too late.”
Both teams dueled across the first three innings of play, where Wellsville’s Gavin Haggerty and Bath-Haverling’s Zach Musso kept their respective opposing offense on their feet early. Musso would continue his start of dominance against the Lions, while the bats fed off the big boost with some key baserunning to provide them their first lead in the bottom of the fourth, scoring the lone run off a bases-loaded walk.
Both teams would trade left and right jabs through the fourth inning before the Rams assumed control again in the bottom of the fifth with two more key runs that would prove to be just enough of a distance maker in the end. Wellsville would be allowed one final opportunity to get on the scoreboard, as they ended the shutout drought in the game with an RBI single from Derek Coleman to trim the deficit to a pair of runs.
But despite the hit, it would become too little, too late.
Wellsville finishes their 2023 campaign with their single run off five total hits, with Aidan Riley leading the bats with a 2-for-3 outing at the plate, recording a run along the way. Cody Costello and Alex Green each added a hit. On the mound, Gavin Haggerty struck out two and walked four, while Trenton Green had four strikeouts and a walk.
The Lions have wrapped up their 2023 campaign with a record of 10-12 overall. The team will graduate all four of their seniors next month in Costello, Riley, Logan Dunbar and Kavan O’Grady.
Delahunt says that it’s been a season filled with ups and downs, but through it all, he is proud of the contributions his team has made.
”We had to battle injuries all year long to key members of this team,” he said. “We had to change positions a lot, we had a lot of contributions from a lot of young kids. It was a tough season because of that. But we weathered the storm, and you always talk about the next man up. We gained some valuable experience for the future ahead. We return a strong team next year, and our future should be more than bright ahead,
Delahunt added on his seniors, saying that “Logan was a horse all year and he had a great season. He could really do some damage if he keeps playing in college next Spring. Cody has been our lead-off guy, he knows the game well and he sets the table for us. It’ll be fun to see him grow next year. Aidan Riley, if you talk about somebody that can provide a spark, he utilized his speed to the fullest. He brought a lot of energy, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much he contributed. Kavan, I feel for him because of his season-ending surgery, I wish we had him one more year but he constantly came to practice and helped out wherever he could. His presence at practice and on the bench during games was extremely appreciated. I will miss all of my seniors greatly.”
Wellsville 000 000 1 – 1 5 0
Bath-Haverling 000 120 X – 3 3 5
WLSV – Gavin Haggerty (LP) (2K, 4BB), Trenton Green (4) (4K, BB) and Alex Green.
B-H – Zach Musso (WP) (CG, 10K, 2BB) and Dante Nealey.