Tonawanda News — ORCHARD PARK — For five innings on Wednesday night in the biggest game of the season for the Tonawanda baseball team, Warriors coach John Frank said he didn’t like the way his team played.
But, he sure liked the way the Warriors finished.
Once again, following the trend that has become the identity of this year’s Tonawanda team, the No. 1-seed Warriors pulled off a come-from-behind 5-3 victory over No. 9-seed Springville to capture their second Section VI B1 championship in four years.
Frank said the feeling was hard to describe following a four-run sixth inning that clinched the win.
“It seems like we just wake up and start playing from the fifth inning on,” he said. “We batted around in the sixth and scored four runs to take the lead. I talked to them before we started that inning and said you can erase everything that’s happened the last five innings and start fresh.”
Griffins pitcher Kyle Crotty had control of the game early on, scattering only five hits through the first five innings. But catcher Steven Warthling said it wasn’t that the Springville pitcher was overpowering, the Warriors just needed to get the bat on the ball and get it into play.
So Warthling led by example, leading off the sixth with a single up the middle. Then senior Nick Pullo blasted a single over the third baseman’s head to give Tonawanda life with only six outs remaining.
Patrick Ball laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, but the pitcher couldn’t field the ball cleanly and Ball beat the throw to load the bases.
Bret Kelly drew a walk to tie the game at two runs apiece and then Tim Barnard put the Warriors up for good with a sharply hit ball to short, plating Pullo, who beat the throw home.
Warthling said the Warriors, who extended their win streak to 14 straight games, are used to coming from behind to win games this season.
“It’s a great thing, It’s a great game,” he said. “We’ve been coming from behind all year so it’s nothing new to us.”
Pullo pitched a complete game for the Warriors, surrendering 11 hits. He recorded six strike outs and made a huge catch to end the game when Springville had the tying run on second base and were threatening with two big hits in the final inning.
“It was a great feeling. Luckily I’m a pretty good fielder on the pitcher’s mound,” Pullo said. “It was a pretty hard shot off the bat. I give them credit for battling back in the last inning, but I was able to get my glove on it and catch it.”
There’s no time for Tonawanda to rest as they play today in the Class B championship game against Fredonia in Jamestown at 5 p.m. Frank will send Jared Zellner to the mound and said he’s enforcing the 24-hour rule, letting the team enjoy the victory today before preparation begins again tomorrow.
Frank also gave credit to every member of the Tonawanda baseball family that’s been through the program over the past four seasons. He said the championship is truly a program achievement.
“I’m proud of everyone involved, from those who have come through the program in the past to the players that we currently have here,” he said. “They’re all a part of this. They all share in it. To be in the finals three of the last four years and claim the B1 final for the seance time in the last four — there’s no better feeling.”
NOTES: Ben Stich and Cody McGregor each had two hits in the game. … led the Warriors with two RBIs. … Bret Kelly drew a pair of walks in the game, one scored the tying run in the sixth. … Stich has two stolen bases.Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.