NIAGARA FALLS – It was a back- and-forth few innings to start the battle between Williamsville East and Iroquois for the Class A title.
The Flames opened the game with three runs in a second inning that saw eight batters come up to the plate.
The Chiefs had an answer, tying the score with two runs in the third and one in the fourth.
Then Williamsville East ripped the game wide open.
An eight-run fourth inning featuring a bases-loaded triple by Ryan Foster and a two-run single by seventh-grader Joe Mack propelled the Flames to a 13-4 victory and their first Section VI Class A championship since 2005.
“We knew we needed to have a breakout inning,” Foster said. “It’s go big or go home, literally. In every game we have that one inning that dictates how we are going to go.”
All but one player in the Flames’ starting lineup got a hit off Iroquois starter Tyler Napierala, who was pulled after 3∏ innings.
“There are no easy outs in my lineup,” Williamsville East coach Jerry Gasz said. “I’ve got guys on the bench that could start for a lot of schools.”
Foster had four RBIs while going 2 for 3 with a walk. Nick Kieffer went 4 for 4 with two RBIs. Mike Poturalski, who pitched the first five innings for the Flames, went 2 for 4.
Sophomore Charlie Mack, who is verbally committed to Clemson, got on base three times – a single, and error on the shortstop that could have been called a hit and an intentional walk. The Chiefs paid for that walk when Joe Mack delivered his two-run single.
“These two are special,” Gasz said. “I believe (Charlie) is one of the best players in the area … (Joe), he’s a stud. You saw him bat out there … He’s not like a seventh grader. He’s a beast.”
Williamsville East was considered the heavy favorite coming into the game and looked it by the end of the day.
Iroquois was 13-8 and a surprise to have made it this far. The Flames defeated the Chiefs in the team’s two regular season ECIC II games by a combined 28-6.
Gasz’s young squad, which features only three seniors, didn’t let that get to their heads. His 47 years of experience has helped him steer the group in the right direction.
“They know what I demand and they know what I expect,” Gasz said. “I tell them on any given day a team can beat you … A 1-19 team can come in and beat you. I take nothing for granted, not after coaching all these years.”
The Flames will play the winner of the Section V championship Saturday in Jamestown.
“I can say this, it’s not my best team ever,” Gasz said. “But they’ve got a lot of heart, they’re hungry, they’re hard workers and when they set their mind on something, they usually accomplish it.”
“It’s my first time going,” Foster said. “We have a great team with a lot of chemistry. It’s going to be a good time.”