NIAGARA FALLS – When you’re a senior in the postseason, you will do almost anything to make sure you go out a champion.
Take Fredonia’s Jared Burmaster.
The pitcher came into the Section VI Class B final having earned the win in each of Fredonia’s three playoff wins, including Thursday’s B-2 title game when he tossed the final three innings of scoreless relief.
When coach Vince Gullo asked Burmaster if he wanted to start or be the reliever for Saturday night’s contest, the response should have been predictable.
Of course, a gassed Burmaster demanded the ball. And he and his teammates delivered at hot, muggy Sal Maglie Stadium.
Fredonia scored four runs in the top of the sixth to overcome a two-run deficit, and Lucas Voss, the other pitching option, recorded the final six outs for the save as the Hillbillies defeated Alden, 5-3, before an estimated 500.
When Voss ended this one with a strikeout, it didn’t take long for the Hillbillies to converge on the mound to start the celebration, as they advanced to the regional round of the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons and seventh time in Gullo’s 15 seasons as coach.
“This means we’ve had a great season, now we’re playing for a (state championship) banner,” Gullo said.
The Hillbillies will face the Section V champion Saturday at Frontier Field in Rochester at a time to be determined.
Burmaster, who earned the win, has a week to rest up for that one. He definitely needs it.
Burmaster, who pitched a total of 16 innings over the last six days, scattered six hits, struck out five, walked two and yielded two earned runs against a good hitting team. The Bulldogs had chances to get to Burmaster but stranded seven runners, including two in the third and fourth innings. When he seemed most vulnerable, though, Alden (16-4) failed to deliver the knockout blow.
“I live for the pressure,” Burmaster said. “I just tried to put the team on my back.”
“He’s all heart,” Gullo said. “Alden’s a good hitting team. … Giving up,” two earned runs, “on a tired arm is pretty impressive.”
Burmaster had plenty of motivation to do well regardless of how his arm felt. He used last year’s failure as motivation as he took the loss in the overall Class B final against Maryvale. He came in determined not to let history repeat itself.
“This definitely feels a lot better than last year,” said Burmaster, who helped Fredonia win a sectional title in basketball last winter. “It’s a great group of guys. They carried me today.”
Fredonia (16-6) lifted him with its sixth-inning rally that overcame a 3-1 deficit. The Hillbillies loaded the bases against Alden starter Nate Reger, who yielded with eight strikeouts through the first five innings. Three of Fredonia’s first four batters reached base in the sixth to set the stage for Reid Tarnowski. The lefty’s run-scoring bloop single to left was misplayed, enabling the tying run to also cross the plate.
Andrew Coniglio followed with a run-scoring single to right to bring home Vince Gullo III with the go-ahead run. Ryan Mroczka’s run-scoring single completed the rally.
“We work on it all the time, going the other way because not every pitch is going to be your wheel house,” coach Gullo said. “Some guys made mistakes but they all atoned for them. They’re all champions.”
Burmaster led the charge, determined to set a positive example for the underclassmen to follow.
“I’m just trying to show them how to do it the right way and hopefully they keep it going once I’m gone,” he said.
Tom Bednarski belted two triples, scoring once and driving in a run to lead the Bulldogs, who won their first Section VI title since 1984 when they captured the B-1 title Thursday.