By Matt Parrino firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — JAMESTOWN — The Tonawanda baseball team had Fredonia right where it wanted it in the seventh inning of the Class B championship game on Friday night at Dietrich Field: within striking distance.
The Warriors had made their name this season with comeback win after comeback win, and with no outs in the final inning, Tonawanda had the tying run on base and the No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters set to take their hacks.
But on this night, against a dominant sophomore lefty pitcher for the Hillbillies, the Warriors couldn't summon the magic one more time. Sophomore Cody McGregor and senior Jared Zellner struck out and Steven Warthling, who played the final game of a historic athletic career, grounded out, and Tonawanda fell, 3-1 against Fredonia.
"Offensively we really couldn't get our bats going at all to be honest with you," said Tonawanda coach John Frank. "All sectionals long we weren't really able to do so, (but) we came up clutch in the three previous games and found a way to win."
Against the Hillbilies and Cam Voss, who has never lost a game in his high school career, the Warriors managed only three hits in seven innings. Voss finished with eight strike outs and displayed the ability to regroup even on the rare occasions his control started to slip for a batter or two.
In the fifth inning Tonawanda loaded the bases with a single from Andrew Ball and a pair of walks by Ben Stich and Bret Kelly. McGregor drew a bases loaded walk to plate the only Warriors run, part of an eight-pitch sequence of all balls from Voss.
But the sophomore shut the door the rest of the way, and Fredonia coach Vince Gullo said he couldn't have asked for a better outing from his star lefty.
"In four playoff games we gave up three runs," he said. "Championship teams win in the playoffs with pitching and defense. Defense almost let us down but it came through in the end. Cam Voss — what a super job he did."
Frank sent Zellner to the mound, the star of the semifinal win over East Aurora (5 innings pitched and 10 strikeouts), but the senior struggled all day long. He allowed only five hits, but he walked six batters and hit four more.
The Hillbillies seemed to do everything they could to blow the game, leaving the bases loaded on two separate occasions, but Voss allowed very little opportunity for the Tribe to get back in the game.
"(Voss) threw a good game. A sophomore coming in on a big stage like this here," Frank said. "He commanded the zone well and unfortunately we weren't able to capitalize on our opportunities."
Zellner, like most of the Warriors' lineup, had his struggles at the plate as well, going 0 for 4 in the game with three strike outs. He struck out in five of his final seven at bats of the season.
Frank said that despite the disappointment the team feels after playing a close game and battling all season long, it has nothing to be ashamed of.
"The kids battled hard all season long and all sectionals long," he said. "They have a lot to be proud of and should hold their heads up high because they certainly accomplished a lot in the division and in the section. No one likes to lose, especially a tight game like this here. Emotions are high, but the kids have nothing to hang their heads about."
The Warriors graduate five starters in No. 1 pitcher Nick Pullo, Zellner, Warthling, Patrick Ball and Tyler Hughes, but Frank said the future is bright for the reigning Section VI Class B1 champions.
"The well certainly is far from dry. We rehash this at the end of every season and we seem to produce or come back out on top or at least have a chance to get here every year," Frank said. "You look back on our record the past four or five years — we're always right there. There's a lot to be proud of."Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.