The law of averages finally swung in favor of the Williamsville South baseball team on Wednesday night.
The Billies defeated Williamsville East, 2-1, at Lewiston-Porter High School to claim the Section VI Class A-1 championship.
"We had lost to them in my tenure five in a row; it's really hard to beat a team six straight times," coach Chris Murphy of Williamsville South said. "I kept telling my guys to believe that, and they bought in and we started rolling at the right time."
It was a surprising twist to the often unpredictable postseason in baseball, where the margin between winning and losing can be very thin. Williamsville East was a defending state finalist and had designs on another long playoff run. The Flames were ranked second in Western New York among large schools.
The standout for Williamsville South on Wednesday was Austin Martin, who threw a five-hitter in going the distance on the mound.
"It was a perfect story - especially in the Section VI finals," Martin said.
"What you should know is that Austin Martin has not thrown more than four innings (in a game) in the last two years," Murphy said. "He pitched the game of his life. It was awesome to watch. ... He was not going to let me take him out."
This was a tense ballgame throughout, with neither side able to get much offense going. The Flames stranded runners in scoring position in the first and third innings. Then in the fourth, with the Billies having taken a 1-0 lead, Andrew Collura of East hit a long fly ball to right field. Matt Chrzanowski took an odd route to the ball but somehow made the catch, and his strong throw to first doubled off a baserunner.
"It definitely was a sketchy play," Martin said. "I honestly thought the ball was going over his head, but I'm definitely glad he made the play."
Williamsville East tied the game in the bottom of the fifth, but stranded two more runners. The Billies got that run back in their next time at the plate. John Genau opened with a single, and Ryan Hann followed with a perfect hit-and-run single to send Genau to third.
"Ryan showed his leadership today," Murphy said. "He called the hit-and-run that led to the winning run. It was his call. He said, 'I'm feeling it, Coach,' and I said, 'It's on.' You can't ask for better senior leadership than that."
A wild pitch led to Genau trotting home from third to score the game-winning run. You could almost hear Williamsville South counting down the outs from there, and the last one, as usual, was the toughest. Martin had to retire Mike Steffan, one of the best hitters in the area, to wrap up the win. When Martin did that on a fly out, the celebration - which included the eighth seniors that were on the field for that last pitch - began in the patch between the pitcher's mound and third.
"That last out had a sigh of relief, but it was great," Martin said. "Mike has had my number for the last couple of years ... but today I got my revenge."
"Going into the game, we knew we could beat them," Hahn added. "We just had to play our game, and nobody could beat us."
East might have figured out the game wouldn't end happily in the bottom of the sixth. Nick Kieffer's hard grounder up the middle looked like a sure hit until it deflected off Martin all the way to third baseman Hann, who threw out the batter at first.
Williamsville East coach Jerry Gasz's team was a clutch hit or two away from advancing, but that never happened.
"We didn't get any breaks today, but give them credit. They played very well," he said. "I'm sure in their mind they had a lot to prove. We are the defending champions, so they had nothing to lose. But they have a good team."
Next up for Williamsville South is Olean in the overall Class A final on Saturday. But that's a little ways off.
"Maybe we can enjoy it for a little while, but we'll get back to business," Murphy said.