Top-Seed Medina Holds Off Fredonia In Class B Final – Jamestown Post Journal

May 28, 2024
Fredonia senior captain Owen Rush collects the runner-up plaque and patches for the ‘Billies after the Section VI Class B final against Medina at Grand Island High School on Saturday. P-J photo by Christian Storms
GRAND ISLAND — No matter what the Fredonia baseball team did, the No. 1 Medina Mustangs had an answer for it.
In the top of the sixth inning, Fredonia took what it hoped would be the final lead of the Section VI Class B final at Grand Island High School on Saturday. Nathan Sercu took the first pitch from Medina relief pitcher Preston Woodworth and sent it to deep right field to score Owen Rush on a two-out RBI double 3-2.
The lead would not last as Medina answered with the final two runs of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. Connor Woodworth first drove in Brody Fry with an RBI single then Richard Keppler drove in Woodworth with an RBI double to give the Mustangs a 4-3 lead that stood the test of a weather delay and top of the seventh for the Class B title.
“I leave her today with a much different feeling,” Fredonia head coach Tim Cowan said about this season’s loss. “I was proud last year for sure, but I could not be prouder than a group of kids. They faced adversity, never quit, four hours on the bus where they were loose waiting for the chance to come back out. Either team that had to walk home in defeat was going to be a tough pill to swallow.”
Fredonia looked to rally in the top of the seventh and the leadoff walk was a good start, but it was followed up by a bad bounce. After Kinney’s walk, Andrew Cowan’s bunt popped up and Kinney slowed in the bases which resulted in a fielder’s choice instead of the tying run at second.
Fredonia catcher Andrew Cowan tags out Medina’s Julian Woodworth at home during the Section VI Class B championship game on Saturday at Grand Island High School. P-J photo by Christian Storms
Then came the weather delay.
Just as Brady Helmer was getting ready for his at bat cracks of thunder could be heard and lightning was seen in the distance. Before you knew it the game was delayed and then it began pouring rain.
After a three-hour delay, Helmer was back at the plate and he wasted no time slamming a single to left field and moving Cowan to second. Helmer’s hit brought up the top of Fredonia’s lineup, but it was Medina’s day as Ashton Putney grounded into a fielder’s choice and then Owen Rush fought off pitch after pitch before striking out to end the game.
“It always stings to lose,” Cowan stated. “Last year going home was a hard one, but I thought it was just punch, counterpunch, it was a heavyweight fight and neither team was willing to let it go. Even to the end, coming off a nearly four hour rain delay Helmer gets a hit to put Andrew in scoring position with without a doubt our two hottest hitters, I can’t ask for more. We got a guy to third and there’s not a guy I want more than Owen Rush at the plate and he fought off four or five strikes and they won the battle. You tip your cap.”
The weather was the icing on the cake that said it was not Fredonia’s day, while everything was going right for the Mustangs.
Medina played the very best game it could and it was too much for the ‘Billies, from getting after Fredonia starting pitcher Ashton Putney in the first inning to playing flawless in the field.
“I’m going to sleep easy tonight knowing that we laid it all on the line,” Cowan added. “We put our very best foot forward and it was by the slimmest of margins not enough today. That’s a part of the game, that’s a part of life and that was my message to the team after the game. 17 wins is a major accomplishment, a division championship and to come back here and face a really good Medina team. I’ll just be proud about this group forever.”
However, Fredonia did have its chances to seize control of the game taking the lead twice, but Medina kept fighting back.
In the top of the fifth, Fredonia took the lead for the first time when Colin Crowell dropped a single into shallow left. Luca Gullo then pinch ran, swiped second and was driven home by a two-out RBI double from Brady Helmer.
Then Medina answered back with a run in the fifth when a fielding error turned a single into a double which the ‘Billies paid for with a run.
When Fredonia scored in the sixth and looked to be in the driver’s seat, the Mustangs responded with the only multi-run inning of the game.
The Mustangs two-run sixth made up for when Fredonia erased a run with a brilliant defensive play by Colin Luce in the bottom of the third.
Medina looked certain to score when its first two runners reached in the frame and a sacrifice bunt moved them both into scoring position. A line drive out of play looked like it was going to drop, but Luce raced to make a catch and Julian Woodworth tagged from third to go home. Luce spun out of his catch and labeled a dart for the glove of Andrew Cowan behind home to secure the tag and kept the game tied at 2-2.
“The play Colin Luce made down the right field line,” Cowan said. “Not only to make that catch, but to have the wherewithal to make that throw home — separate from the stage being as big as it was — is one of the finest plays I’ve ever seen and then to factor in it was in a sectional final in a high leverage situation was huge. He almost made another miraculous catch, just plays like that throughout the day.”
While Fredonia prevented runs in the third, the ‘Billies could not replicate defensive plays like that all throughout the game and Medina capitalized, resulting in the eventual 4-3 loss.
Following his first playoff start in which he did not give up a hit, Putney dealt with a stronger Medina squad. But the ace still had the ‘Billies in position to win after six innings in which he gave up three earned runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out six.
Fredonia finishes its season with a 17-6 record and a win short of the sectional title, but with just two seniors the ‘Billies have plenty to look forward to next season.
“Nate Sercu is a three-year starter for us,” Cowan said about the seniors. “He’s the anchor of our infield defense and we have a lot of quality infielders, but for him to be our everyday shortstop and really just settles things for us. Fortunately for him he’s going to continue his career at Jamestown Community College and I think that’s a great fit for him. … Owen is a four-year starter, he should be a three-time All-Western New York selection by the time that vote is done. He’s done it with the bat, he’s done it on the mound, he leaves quite a legacy. He owns a number of team records, with home runs and other things. He was the heartbeat of this squad the past couple years and that’s not to take away from anyone else.”
The victory marks Medina’s fourth sectional title in five seasons and sixth overall. The Mustangs advance to play the Section V Class B champion on June 1 back at Grand Island High School.
“The core is back, we graduate two and we have quality players that weren’t in the lineup today that are itching for an opportunity,” Cowan said about the future. “We’ll be back. They’re not satisfied, not to put anything down about not winning today, but they’ve tasted it. Really tomorrow starts the work for next season, I’d like to maybe get away from it and relax, but just the mentality they have, they’re going to be in the gym and at the field together. You’ll hear from us again.”
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