NIAGARA FALLS – Being the away team in a baseball game has its advantages.
It enables a team to get a jump on its opponent while a potential big inning makes your own pitcher's job a whole lot easier.
Olean wasted little time getting into its comfort zone Saturday and secured its biggest win yet.
The Huskies are heading to the Far West Regionals for the first time in program history. They find themselves one win away from earning a trip to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association final four after pouncing early and often on Williamsville South en route to a 9-2 triumph in the overall Section VI Class A championship game.
Class A-2 champion Olean pushed across six runs on seven hits during the top of the first inning against a Billies team that entered the final having yielded just one run in its past three games. That included last Wednesday's 2-1 Class A-1 championship game win over last year's state runner-up Williamsville East – another team filled with good hitters.
But the Huskies did what they've done well all season before an estimated crowd of 500 at the Niagara Falls High School Athletic Complex. They put the bat on the ball to give pitcher Bryan Bizzaro more than enough run support as Olean added to its victory total in a season filled with wins.
"It's nice to make history with such a storied baseball program," said Bizzaro, who struck out three, scattered two hits and yielded no runs in five innings. "My dad played here, so it makes it even better (to reach regionals).
"I like being the away team. You get six runs in the first, you go out there and throw it down the middle. Who cares if they hit it? Our defense is that good too. It's nice."
Olean, winners of 17 straight since dropping its season opener to St. Francis, put some nice swings on pitches thrown by lefty Elijah Zells as the team's season-long practice of working on hitting the breaking ball paid off in this one.
Speedy senior Garrett Boldt started things off with an infield single and scored three batters later on Dylan Vincent's single. Zach Parr (2 for 4) followed by smacking a hanging breaking ball for a two-run single. Joe Jedrosko (2 for 2) later smoked a two-run double to left. Boldt capped the blitz in which 11 Huskies batted with a sacrifice fly to score Bizzaro.
Olean added two more runs in the second and carried a 9-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh. The Huskies had nine of their 12 hits through two innings, with South (13-6) committing all three of its errors over that span.
"We've been doing that quite a bit this year," first-year coach John Zambanini said of his Huskies' knack for scoring first. "I'm not worried about the bats. … I thought it was definitely going to be a pitchers' duel. ... They were throwing the off-speed pitches we've been working on. We usually hit the ball to the opposite field.
"It was nice to put those runs on the board. … It "puts a little damper on it when you're behind and you have to come back."
Vincent, a junior, finished 3 for 4 with two runs scored, while Nick Crandall (2 for 4) and Justin Retchless (1 for 3) each scored twice.
The Billies attempted to mount a rally but stranded six of their seven base runners during the final three innings. South also pulled off three double plays, but the slow start doomed its quest to reach regionals for the first time since 2013.
"We knew we were going up against a team that could really put the ball in play," Billies coach Chris Murphy said. "It wasn't so much what we did wrong and more what they did right."
The Huskies have done a lot of things right. They hope to add to their lengthy winning streak next Saturday at 7 p.m. when they face the Section V champion at Frontier Field in Rochester.
It won't be easy, but they should have reason to feel comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings with a trip to Binghamton on the line.
As the visiting team, they get to bat first which gives them a chance to be frontrunners once again.
"Hopefully we can get to where we want," Boldt said.