Derrick Walters has played a role as a second or third pitcher in Fredonia’s rotation throughout much of the 2017 season. On Saturday afternoon, the junior hurler pitched like the ace of the staff in the team’s biggest game of the year to this point.
Walters threw a two-hit, complete-game gem, striking out 15 batters and allowing only three baserunners, in shutting out Alden, 4-0, in the Section VI Class B overall baseball championship game at Gowanda High School.
The Hillbillies’ win was their second straight overall Class B title and fifth in the last seven years. They will play the winner of the Section V championship game between Livonia and Hornell on June 3 in Niagara Falls.
“To get this kind of effort from Derrick at this time of the year is pretty impressive,” Fredonia coach Vince Gullo said.
“We were taking care of him early in the year and helping him build confidence and it seemed to work because he was in complete command of every pitch.”
Walters had B-1 champion Alden (14-5) off balance at the plate throughout the afternoon. He said his curveball was dropping and his high fastball was difficult to lay off, helping him consistently get outs.
The Hillbillies plated three runs in the top of the second and tacked on an insurance run in the seventh. Hitting one-two in the order, Fredonia junior second baseman Seth Schrader and junior third baseman Reid Tarnowski combined to go 4-for-6 with three RBI.
“My pitches were working very well today, but I think the most important thing was my defense helping me a lot, especially Ryan” Mroczka “behind the plate,” Walters said. “As the game progresses, it honestly gets easier for me. When we got those runs, it really helped me with my confidence.”
This type of performance from Fredonia should be no surprise to Section VI baseball fans who have watched the Hillbillies receive big performances at the most important times over a 13-year run. Fredonia has won a B-1, B-2 or outright B title in 10 of those 13 seasons, including two state titles (2006, 2013).
Gullo said Saturday’s championship was the 20th playoff game for each of this team’s seven seniors since they began as freshmen.
“That’s an entire season worth of games, so they have been through this a lot,” said Gullo, who as he spoke received a compliment from Alden coach Tom Zaccardo about the strength of the Fredonia program. “We live for games like this.”
In the second inning, Schrader lined a two-out, two-RBI single over the center fielder’s head to score seniors Andrew Coniglio (two hits) and Cole Tippens. Tarnowski followed with a single, scoring Schrader.
Alden senior Nate Reger settled in on the mound and shut down Fredonia for the next four innings before Mroczka doubled to drive in Schrader, who had walked to lead off the seventh and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Tarnowski.
“With Seth and Reid at the top of the order moving runners and driving guys home, that’s what you need,” Gullo said.
Walters finished strong with two strikeouts in the seventh and his fourth 1-2-3 inning of the game. Gullo said Walters’ positive body language was important and he credited pitching coach Charlie Laduca and Mroczka for helping maintain the hurler’s confidence. Alden’s lone hits came in each of the first two innings, from junior Bryan Cybulski and senior JJ Foster.
“Derrick had his pitches working today and he was comfortable and relaxed out there,” Gullo said.