Patience at the plate paid off for Fredonia.
The Class B-2 champion Hillbillies drew 11 walks, including four in the bottom of the seventh inning, to dethrone CCIAC I rival and reigning overall Class B champion Dunkirk (B-1), 8-7, before an estimated 400 fans on Thursday at Gowanda High School.
Fredonia (19-5) advances to the Far West Regional against the Section V champion on Tuesday at a Rochester-area site to be determined.
"Our guys were willing to take the walk, willing to take their pitch all game long," Fredonia coach Vince Gullo said. "We made their pitchers work. We made them pull their starter (Kevin Holmes) and go to somebody else in the last inning (Clayton Cieslewicz), which helped us a lot."
Cieslewicz inherited a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh, but quickly gave up a lead-off single to No. 9 hitter A.J. Riforgiat. Nick Hart (1 for 2, two RBIs) then walked, setting up a bunt situation for Trent Thompson (2 for 4), who laid a textbook bunt down the third-base line.
Cieslewicz fielded the bunt, but hurried his throw, which ended up in right field, allowing Riforgiat (2 for 3) to score and Hart to advance to third base. Thompson went to second on the error and Zack Buckley (1 for 2) was intentionally put on to load the bases.
Clean-up hitter Connor Farnham, who was the winning pitcher in relief of Thompson and ripped an RBI double earlier in the game, worked the count full until taking ball four, pushing Hart across for the tying run. Matt Sheridan (1 for 3, RBI) then watched five pitches before taking his base, allowing Thompson to score the winning run.
"We were just saying we've got to keep our heads in it and keep fighting," Riforgiat said of the rally. "We persevered. We always hit the ball and keep playing right into the seventh inning."
"It's really a great feeling. There's nothing like it. To be a senior and get everything going with that hit is just magic. It really makes me feel good."
Gullo, who has taken his program to the state final three times since 2005, said the rally was indicative of the type of team he works with on a daily basis.
"We have the heart of a champion," he said. "We had so many different guys contribute today."
Josh Mleczko and Max Schrantz each had three hits and an RBI for Dunkirk (16-9), which had led since the third inning. Up by just one run in the top of the seventh inning, the Marauders thought they had added an insurance run when Patrick LaMattina's sacrifice fly brought in Mleczko.