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A Devil of a batting show as Clarence wins AA title

NIAGARA FALLS – Williamsville North took the field for the Class AA baseball championship game less than 24 hours after a draining one-run win over the tournament’s top seed in a contest that took two days to finish due to weather.

Right away, Clarence pounced on the opportunity it was presented and never let up.

The Red Devils put on a hitting display while cruising to a 17-2 win over the Spartans on Sunday at Niagara Falls High School to earn a sectional title for the first time since 2013. The game was postponed a day so North could finish its game Saturday with defending Class AA champion Lancaster. It was the first sectional title for Clarence since winning five times in seven seasons (2007-13).

Clarence racked up 16 hits against North’s depleted pitching staff over the course of six innings and scored in all but one inning. The offensive attack was highlighted by an eight-run first inning when the No. 2 seeded Red Devils sent 12 batters to the plate.

The Red Devils will face the Section V champion in the Far West Regional on Saturday at Niagara Falls High.

“We knew (North) was a tough team and we’d have to execute off the get-go then maintain that level the entire time,” Clarence coach Dave Smith said. “We got fortunate that things really snowballed and it turned out well for us. … All year long our guys did a nice job, we got some breaks in the playoffs and they executed when they had to.”

Clarence smacked four extra-base hits (three triples and a double) and all nine starters in the order had at least one hit. The Red Devils (18-5), who tacked on three runs in the third and two each in the fourth, fifth and sixth, were also patient at the plate, drawing 10 walks, while facing seven different Spartans pitchers.

“We haven’t given many at-bats away through the course of the year,” Smith said. “That’s what we really stress and they really executed that to a tee.”

Winning pitcher Nick Ciraolo aided his own cause, finishing 3 for 4 with a triple, two runs scored and three RBIs. Senior first baseman Jared Shalke was 2 for 2 with two runs and two RBIs; sophomore third baseman Jack Putney, had two hits and two RBIs; junior left fielder Mike O’ Brien was 2 for 2 with three runs and an RBI; and junior DH Nicholas Sykas had four RBIs. Senior Bennett Cavaretta added an RBI triple.

“It’s like we have gone over in practice for the past couple of months, hit consistently and don’t go for the bigger hits, just keep the runners moving,” Ciraolo said. “The main thing for us was to jump on them early and then keep it up throughout the game.”

Clarence received a three-hit, complete-game pitching performance from Ciraolo. the senior ace struck out four, walked two and hit two batters, and helped by a diving catch by O’Brien in the second that saved two runs.

“He’s been solid for us all year and if he gets into a rhythm he can really shut people down,” Smith said of Ciraolo.
Fourth-seeded North (13-6) had pitched its senior ace Josh Surowiec the day before in a 6-5 win over this year’s AA favorite Lancaster, so he was unavailable Sunday. Surowiec did hit a towering solo homer over the center-field wall in the third inning to get North on the board, but it was a rare highlight for the Spartans.

“We’re fortunate as a coaching staff to have been here a bunch of times, but we haven’t been here with this group of guys,” Smith said of Clarence’s return to championship level. “I’m mostly happy for the guys and happy we can help provide them with that opportunity.”

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