FREDONIA. – Patience is a virtue.
On Monday, Fredonia’s patience at home plate paid off.
The Hillbillies waited eight walks from Gowanda pitchers and got back in the running for a shared Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 baseball championship with a five-inning 13-3 win over the Panthers at Chestnut Street Field in the Village.
Fredonia did most of his damage against junior Gowanda ace John Ondus, who struggled for 1 2/3 innings and walked seven times while being charged with six of the runs allowed.
“He’s a great pitcher. We wanted to focus early in the count on the swing on the pitches we want,” said Fredonia head coach Tim Cowan. “If he’s going to paint the corner for a first strike, we’re going to let that happen and not try to get out.”
Gabe Schrader walked to open the bottom of the second inning and stole a pair of bases, but back-to-back strikeouts brought Ondus close to going out of bounds with no damage allowed.
But steps to No. 8 hitter Nathan Sercu and No. 9 hitter Jadon Whitfield brought the Hillbillies to the top of the order.
A wild pitch gave Schrader the first run and a walk to Simon Davis charged the bases again before Micah Davis walked to force another run. Owen Rush then walked to home plate in the third inning of the inning, signaling the end of the afternoon for Ondus.
Bryan Zynda relieved for Gowanda and Fredonia cleanup hitter Matt Cash had the biggest hit of the day, a two-run double.
“We really preach the confidence of the guy behind you. It will strike in the direction it is going right now, at any place in the order,” Cowan said of Cash. “Today it happened to be at No. 4.”
But the Hillbillies weren’t done. Schrader singled past Trevor Persch’s RBI single and again the Panthers failed to play as an error extended the inning. Sercu made them pay with a two-run single before Zynda came out of the inning with a pop-out to her receiver.
“It happened several times. We have already seen it. It’s baseball, anything can happen. said Gowanda head coach Tim Smith. “A bad run kind of buried us there. You have to be able to end it at some point. We kept shooting each other in the foot. It happens and you need to move on.
Armed with a 9-0 lead, Owen Ludwig – who couldn’t beat rivals Dunkirk on Saturday afternoon – held Gowanda’s mighty formation at bay, knocking the team out in the fourth set.
“Looking at the stats, it really wasn’t a bad performance (Saturday). … He challenged the batters. We made a couple of bad 0-2 shots over the weekend,” said Cowan. “I wouldn’t say he made any adjustments, he just got a little sharper today. When he took the lead, he wasn’t trying to overthrow. He really focused on his location and that turned out to be very important.
In the top of the fifth inning, the Panthers finally got on the board with four hits. Cole Herman and Smuda picked to open the frame and Drew Shull charged the bases with a one-out single. Blake Herman then hit a sacrificial fly into shallow right field and Ondus hit a two-run double.
“The resilience of this group is what makes them think,” said Smith. “It’s a tough bunch of kids.”
But with an evening gig awaiting them in high school, the Hillbillies didn’t want to play seven full innings. In their fifth half, Simon Davis hit a one-out double and Rush hit a two-out RBI double to make it 10-3.
“The reason we were able to extend our lead was guys all the way through the order were able to keep going and then Cash, Rush was able to drive them,” said Cowan. “…They were coming back. They were charging hard. For us to have another big inning in the bottom of the fifth to put it away was huge.
Cash then hit an RBI single before an error extended the inning again, allowing Ludwig to finally hit a two-run single.
“It’s really important for him to be a two-way player this year. He worked very hard for it. Cowan said of Ludwig. “…He’s worked really hard at home plate and to be able to be in the lineup on days he’s not pitching. For him to have some big at bats for us… really sting one at the end was a good way to end it.
Fredonia (11-4-1, 10-3) must now beat Olean on Thursday and have Gowanda (13-5, 10-3) beat Southwestern (13-3, 11-2) for the three to share the title of champion. .
“We’re big Gowanda fans right now,” said Cowan. “We have to mind our own business. If we don’t play well on Thursday, it doesn’t matter.