Pitching in Dunn Tire Park gave Williamsville North's Jordan Stewart a case of the nerves. Good thing his teammates had the cure.
The Spartans scored four times in the bottom of the first, giving their starting pitcher a cushion and paving the way to a 10-2 victory over St. Joe's as part of Saturday's AdPro Monsignor Martin-ECIC Challenge.
In the event's other three games, Orchard Park defeated Timon/St. Jude, 10-6; Canisius beat Clarence, 3-1; and Lancaster triumphed over St. Francis, 12-5.
The Spartans' Stewart settled down to pick up the victory after surrendering a pair of runs in the first inning. He retired nine of the 10 batters he faced in the next three innings, finishing with two runs allowed on two hits over four innings. He struck out four and walked two.
"I just tried to keep my composure," Stewart said. "At first I was kind of nervous out here, playing in Dunn Tire Park and everything. But after the first inning I knew I had to throw strikes, and that's what I did."
Chris Gronkowski started the Spartans' rally in the first, driving in Pat Dwyer with a first-pitch single. Gronkowski scored along with John Rusin after an error on a warning-track fly ball off the bat of Adam Durfee. Rob Gronkowski then singled home Durfee to put North ahead, 4-2.
"Our first inning provided a huge momentum swing," said Spartans coach Jerry Scarcella. "St. Joe's scored early and was flying, and they're a good team. They will scrap and they'll bunt. But if you get up a couple runs it kind of takes the small ball away from them, which was big for us."
James Piazza went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored for North. Teammate Rob Gronkowski pitched two perfect innings of relief to close the game. Only 5 1/2 innings were played because the contest exceeded its two-hour time limit.
"We can hit the ball, but if we can throw strikes we're going to be tough," Scarcella said. "We struggle when we walk guys and put a lot of pressure on our fielders. We avoided that."
John Puffer went 2 for 4 with four RBIs to power Orchard Park's win over Timon. His RBI single in the fifth inning put the Quakers ahead for good.
"I was down in the count (0-2) but fouled off a couple pitches to get back to 2-2," Puffer said of that at-bat. "Then I saw a fastball on the outside corner and drove it to right field."
Along with 10 hits, Orchard Park drew six walks and had three batters reach after being hit by a pitch.
"Every at-bat our kids are making the pitcher work," said coach Jim Gibson, whose Quakers remained unbeaten (5-0). "They are really doing a great job with making the pitcher throw strikes. I hope it continues."
Orchard Park prevailed despite leaving the bases loaded in the third, fourth and fifth innings and finishing with 14 runners left on base.
The Quakers' Tim Klein picked up the win in relief, and Mike Adams pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the save.
Andy Shepheard and Patrick Schaus combined on a five-hitter for Canisius in its victory over Clarence. Red Devils pitcher Dan Francis was saddled with the loss, though he surrendered only three runs in seven innings.
The Crusaders scored two in the bottom of the first, including the game-winning run following an RBI single by Dan Scime.
Russ Rizzuto walked, stole two bases and scored on Drew Krause's single in the fourth to provide Canisius with an insurance marker.
Jessie Parrish went 3 for 3 with two runs scored in Lancaster's win over St. Francis. The Redskins' Jim Banks, Jeff Jones and Brian Wedmore each added a pair of hits.