The first 19 outs of the Class AA final were smooth sailing for the Orchard Park baseball team at Lewiston-Porter on Saturday. It was the final two outs that almost capsized the top-ranked Quakers’ chances of capturing their first Section VI title since 2006.
Orchard Park coach Jim Gibson pulled senior starting pitcher Andrew Sipowicz in the top of the seventh inning with a comfortable 8-1 lead over No. 3 Niagara Falls and gave the ball to Jacob Lewis.
After Lewis struck out the first batter he faced, the Wolverines jumped on the junior right-hander for six runs on six hits before the last batter grounded out to end the game with an 8-7 victory.
“I told Lewis just now, I said I would do it again because he has given up four runs all season,” Gibson said after the game. “They got some hits, but like I said, I would do it again. I don’t really have any second thoughts about it, although I will say I did get nervous.”
Despite consistently being one of the top teams in the area, a Section VI title had eluded the Quakers for eight years. It was something that had been on the mind of the coaches and players, even though some of them weren’t part of the Orchard Park squads that lost in the 2010, 2011 and 2014 finals.
“It’s a big relief off our shoulders,” Sipowicz said. “I think now we’re just going to go out there and play our game and see how far we can make it.”
Orchard Park (21-1) will travel to Rochester next Saturday to square off against Section V champ McQuaid (20-3). The time and site have not yet been determined.
Gibson scouted the Knights when they came to Buffalo to play Canisius a couple weekends ago, just in case the two happened to meet in the Far West Regionals.
“We saw the kid that threw the no-hitter in the Section V final,” Gibson said, referring to McQuaid left-hander Henry Buholtz. “He pitched against Canisius, so we kind of have an idea of what we’ll see from them. It was only one game, but it’s still nice to go in seeing them once and not being blind.”
Future Canisius Golden Griffin Sipowicz breezed through the first six innings giving up only one run on two hits and striking out six batters while walking one.
The Quakers scored a run in each of the first five innings, which started when Sipowicz turned on a high fastball in the first and blasted a two-run homer that comfortably cleared the 330-foot fence in left field. Brandon Nicholson scored for OP on the play. Jacob Dogal crossed home for the Quakers in the third on an error off a Niagara Falls pick-off attempt.
Niagara Falls senior Christian Miller had the first hit and lone run off Sipowicz when he hit a home run to left-center field in the third to make it 3-1. Quaker Luke Kuczewski hit a sacrifice fly to right field to drive in Jeff Palczewski in the home half of the inning to extend the lead back to three.
Orchard Park tallied three more runs in the fourth on a RBI single by Austin Bristol to score Troy Banks and a two-RBI Cole Hollins single, which brought in Bristol and Palczewski. Dogal scored OP’s final run in the seventh off a double by Banks.
Michael Laurrie, Vincent Colosi and Paul Barker scored the first three runs of Niagara Falls’ seventh inning on singles by Barker, Miller and Matt Grace, respectively. With two outs, Justin Beyer hit a three-run home run to left field to round out the scoring.
Beyer also started on the mound for the Wolverines. He went five innings, struck out five, gave up 11 hits and seven earned runs. Robert Merino didn’t allow a hit in his only inning of relief for Niagara Falls.