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Fredonia baseball in championship state of mind

ENDICOTT — The Fredonia baseball team was No. 1 in the Western New York coaches poll all season.

On Saturday, it not only put that ranking in bold type, it added another, more weighty title: state champions.

Fredonia put forth two great performances at Union-Endicott’s Sylvester Field as it won the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B championship.

The Hillbillies (26-2) fell behind before storming past Section II (Albany area) champion Ogdensburg, 9-2, in Saturday afternoon’s semifinal, then rode a five-run first inning and sophomore Cameron Voss’ one-hitter to a 7-0 state championship victory over Clinton of Section III (Syracuse area).

“I couldn’t be more proud of my team,” said Fredonia coach Vince Gullo. “To battle through seven straight playoff games, I’m so proud of these kids. I wanted to get to the state final – these kids wanted a state championship.”

It is the second state title in baseball for the Hillbillies, who also won in 2006 under Gullo. It’s the first state title for Section VI since Pine Valley won Class D in 2007.

“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” said senior catcher Zach Buckley. “To come out and end the season as state champs, is the best feeling ever.”

Buckley said the team focused on reaching the Far West Regionals, where the Hillbillies’ season came to an end last year. Its regional win is what earned Fredonia its berth in today’s final four.

“We knew we were a great team coming into the season,” said Buckley. “The Far West, that was our main focus, just to get to there. … This game, and the previous game, we played two great games.”

The state championship victory bordered on a clinic. Voss was nearly unhittable, allowing his first hit in the top of the seventh inning. He walked five but stayed out of jams by keeping hitters off balance.

“Everything goes back to those first few weeks in March,” said Voss. “We’ve just worked so hard to get here all year. We’re close enough to the point where we know what each other is thinking. We know how much talent we have, and with the work that we put in, makes us a little bit better. This was our goal as soon as we got here. This was a business trip for us.”

The Hillbillies took control of the championship game in the first inning, sending 10 batters to the plate. Five of the first six batters came around to score. Buckley, Voss, senior Sebastian McAfee and senior Christian Saden had RBI singles while junior Cody Smith drove one in with a groundout.

From there, Voss mixed in four strikeouts with solid plays from his defense. The game cruised along until center fielder Nick Hart caught a fly ball for the final out, setting off an on-field celebration.

Fredonia’s Saturday started with it surrendering two early runs to Ogdensburg, one each in the second and third. However, the Hillbillies rallied with six runs in the third – another inning in which it sent 10 batters to the plate – before tacking on one run in the fourth, fifth and sixth. After the early bumps, senior Trent Thompson settled down. He faced just two batters over the minimum over the final four innings.

“The first game was great because everybody contributed,” said Gullo. “Trent and Cam had great pitching performances, our defense in the second game was really strong and we had Weston Ley in reserve.

“These kids had so much fun this year – I couldn’t have had any more fun with these kids.”