By Craig Harvey
WESTFIELD - Westfield sophomore Trevor North ran track and field last year.
Frewsburg’s Bryce Peterson dives into first first base ahead of a pickoff attempt during Thursday’s Section 6 Class C semifinal baseball game. Awaiting the throw is Westfield’s Gregory Schroeder.
Photo by Mary Ann Wiberg
This season, the right-fielder made the baseball squad. And after his late-game heroics Thursday in the Section 6 Class C semifinal game against Frewsburg, Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach is thankful North picked the diamond over track this year.
North made a diving catch before throwing to first to tag up the runner for a double play to end the ninth inning, and then laid down the game-winning suicide squeeze bunt to give the Wolverines a 2-1 victory.
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"The funny thing is, against Maple Grove (in the quarterfinals), I DH'd for him," Kaltenbach said. "But he came through with a big hit so I decided to roll the dice. He has been struggling, but he has a consistent glove. He has been great. He is not a superstar, but he does little things. He is smart. Let's put it this way, he earned a starting spot now."
The victory puts Westfield into the championship game for the fourth straight year, and Kaltenbach joked later he hoped he doesn't have the same fate as former Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy, who lost four straight Super Bowls.
"I know people say it all the time, but in all the years I have coached, you cannot get a better game than this one," Kaltenbach said. "Plays were made all over - great plays."
The Bears had all the early momentum as pitcher Koby Carder set down Westfield's lineup in order in the second inning.
In the top of the third inning, Frewsburg's Garrett Steele led off the inning with a first-pitch home run over the left-field fence for the 1-0 lead.
"I told Garrett in batting practice, 'You're going to hit one out today.'" Frewsburg Jay Grann said. "Before the inning, I said, 'He will throw you a fastball. Swing at it.'"
Frewsburg's momentum continued in the bottom of the third inning. After Westfield's Brandon Johnson ripped a one-out double, Tanner Dahl singled to put runners on the corner. Dahl was caught off guard and was nearly picked off at first base, pitting him in a run down. While the rundown was going on, Johnson tried scoring, but was thrown out at home plate for the final out and keep the momentum rolling.
However, Westfield got its first break in the next inning. Frewsburg's Trevor Spicer led off with a double. Bryce Raymond then hit a one-out double to the gap in left-center field. Westfield's Nolan Hunt, playing centerfield for the first time all season, cut the ball off, threw to cut-off man Tanner Dahl, who rifled home a perfect throw home to get Spicer at the plate to keep the score 1-0.
"That play he made isn't going to show up on the card, but that literally stopped the momentum," Kaltenbach said. "Frewsburg can get rolling and it's hard to stop. That play was huge."
The Wolverines then got their first run in the bottom half of the inning as Joey Quagliana had a two-out infield single and scored on an error as Greg Schroeder's fly ball was mishandled in centerfield. Quagliana motored all the way around from first to tie the score.
"This game was a game of mistakes," Grann said. "We made them and they didn't. We killed ourselves on the bases. We had three errors. You're not going to win games that way. We played well enough to stay in the game, but not well enough to win. We beat ourselves."
From that point on, it was a pitcher's duel between Westfield's Robbie Burgess and Frewsburg's Carder.
"He deserved better fate," Grann said of Carder. "We didn't make any plays behind him. We should have been out of here in seven. It's disappointing. We never want the season to end without a title, but it's what we deserved. We beat ourselves."
After North's double play in the top of the ninth inning, the Wolverines wasted little time getting the offense going. Hunt reached first base on an error with one out and moved to second as Quagliana was hit by a pitch. After a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, Schroeder drew a walk to load the bases with North coming to the plate. Grann went out to talk to his pitcher and North walked down the third-base line to talk to Kaltenbach.
"That was an interesting talk," Kaltenbach said. "I know we struggle at the bottom of our lineup. I told Trevor, 'You're going to squeeze on the first pitch and he gave me a glazed look. He said, 'I will get it down.'"
And he did just that as his bunt dribbled between the catcher and pitcher, and Hunt, who broke for home before the pitch was delivered, dove into home plate for the winning run and begin the celebration.
Now the Wolverines take on the Cassadaga Valley Cougars on Saturday at Diethrick Park for the sectional championship. First pitch is at 1 p.m.