LAKEWOOD - There's a lot of places in the batting order that would be perfect for the Fredonia Hillbillies Cody Smith.
"He could be our two hitter, he could be our six hitter or our seven hitter," Hillbillies coach Vince Gullo said on Monday evening. "But Cody is our nine hitter, and that's a great spot for him right now."
His performance at Packard Field on Monday certainly seems to support that contention.
Southwestern’s Nick Baglia delivers a pitch against Fredonia in Monday’s Division 1 baseball game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
With the game knotted at one run apiece in the top of the fourth inning, Smith dropped a two-out blooper into center field off opposing pitcher Jake Pilling, scoring teammates Jude Gardner (2-for-4) and Cameron Voss, to break the game open and send the Hillbillies to a 5-1 victory over the host Southwestern Trojans.
The win, which was Fredonia's fifth straight against Southwestern, improved the defending Section 6 Class B-2 champions' record to an unblemished 6-0 overall and 1-0 in league.
Pilling took the loss for Southwestern, which fell to 2-4 and 0-1, allowing five runs on five hits and four walks over five innings pitched.
Smith would connect on one more single (a scorcher past Southwestern shortstop Kyle Radack) in the sixth inning, ending the contest with two hits in two at-bats and a walk.
Most important, however, were those two, fourth-inning RBIs.
"Cody is getting a lot of pitches to see with Nick (Hart, Fredonia's standout leadoff hitter) on deck, and he is making the most of his opportunities," Gullo said. "That was a big, clutch base hit for us, a two-out single."
Pilling, who labored somewhat over the first two innings, had almost escaped unharmed during the pivotal fourth frame, but a pair of unofficial "errors" extended the inning enough to allow Smith, and later Weston Ley, opportunities to hit - opportunities the pair made sure to make the most of.
Gardner opened the frame with a groundball single up the middle and then Voss reached first safely after dropping down a bunt. Though Pilling had fielded Voss' intended sacrifice bunt cleanly, he had to double clutch the throw to second because neither his shortstop nor his second baseman had immediately moved over to cover the bag.
Pilling managed to get the next two batters, but couldn't get the final out against Smith, who was able to move to second after his eventual game-winning hit following an errant throw past the cutoff man by Southwestern center fielder Nick Baglia. Then, after walking Hart, the Southwestern senior allowed another base hit, this time to Weston Ley (2-for-4, two RBIs), which scored both Smith and Hart and pushed the Hillbillies to the winning margin.
"We had two errors that were big," Southwestern coach Darin Beckerink said. "I don't know if they counted as errors, but the fact that we picked up the bunt and the fielder didn't get (to second base) in time, that was an error that cost us. And, I hate to say it, the little bleeder they hit into center and us not hitting the cutoff coming into second base. That's the four runs right there, that's it."
With Fredonia ace Trent Thompson on the mound, that was it.
Though Thompson, who was the lone area underclassman to be named to last year's New York State Sportswriters Association all-state first team, struggled with his command early - he allowed four hits in the first two innings, including a leadoff double to Matt Martin and an RBI single to Baglia in the second inning - he buckled down from the third inning on, retiring 16 of the final 19 batters he faced.
"Trent had a good game," Gullo said. "He struggled early locating his fastball, but once the third inning came around he started working the strike zone properly and his off-speed pitches were phenomenal. He's a gamer, you know? His fastball wasn't quite there, but he stuck with it and he kept them off balance."
Thompson, who earned the complete-game victory behind a four-hit, no-walk, seven-strikeout performance, has beaten Southwestern in each of his last four outings against the squad.
Fredonia will be looking to keep its perfect record intact on Wednesday when it hosts Falconer. Southwestern, meanwhile, is right back in action today against host Allegany-Limestone.