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Victor is too much for Lancaster

Lancaster pitcher Joe Preziuso could only hold on for so long.

The freshman went toe-to-toe with reigning state champion Victor and its senior hurler Matt Portland for most of the game Tuesday night before the Blue Devils broke it wide open in the fifth and rode Portland's six innings of work to a 15-1 win in the Far West Regional at Dwyer Stadium.

Portland, a 6-foot-3 left-hander who is bound for Northwestern University, hits the low 90s on the radar gun, averages more than two strikeouts per inning and has never lost in his high school career -- now 24-0. And he only got stronger as the game progressed.

"I didn't think I had it early on," Portland said. "I think later in the game it might have got there. I didn't feel like I was blowing it by them in the first couple innings. I was using my curveball a lot to keep them off balance, but as the game went along, I was able to pick up some velocity and put it by some of those guys. They're a good hitting team though. I don't think that score reflects what kind of team they are."

Preziuso went out to the mound for the fifth down 1-0 with the heart of the order due up. Singles from Dale Wickham and Tommy Wagner put runners on the corners for the Blue Devils when -- who else? -- Portland, the cleanup hitter, came to the plate. Portland swung at the first pitch he saw and hit it up the middle to score Wickham and end Preziuso's night.

But the Blue Devils weren't done yet, as seven consecutive hits turned a close game into a rout. It was 8-0 before Lancaster retired a batter in the inning, but after a double-play ball, Wickman, Wagner and Portland came back up kept on hitting, making the final count nine runs on 11 hits in the fifth inning alone.

Sophomore Tyler Hoffhines offered the only form of resistance Lancaster could muster in the top of the sixth, breaking up Portland's no-hitter and shutout with a double to deep left that scored senior James Krolikowski, who had reached on a walk.

Victor batted around again in the bottom of the sixth, adding another five runs on four hits against a Lancaster team that had allowed just five runs during the Section VI playoffs.

"It was a pleasure and an honor to coach these kids this year," Lancaster coach Mark Dalfonso said. "Their character and integrity is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. That's the part that's got me choked up. These kids love each other that's the only way to describe it.

"One of our seniors tried to say something [in the huddle after the game], but he couldn't. He basically just said 'I couldn't think of a better group of guys to have played with.' What are you doing in high school sports but making memories like this?"

Portland's final stat line was one run allowed on one hit through six innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts, plus a 3-for-5 day at the plate with three RBIs.

Preziuso gave up eight hits, struck out three and walked one in four-plus innings.

Victor will move on to play Baldwinsville (Section III) Saturday in a state semifinal at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton. Lancaster finished at 18-5.