For the first time in school history, the Kenmore West Blue Devils are sectional champions in baseball.
"I thought getting to the sectional finals was a lot of fun but winning this game, my heart is still going," Kenmore West head coach John Haynes said following the Blue Devils’ 5-3 Class A-1 title victory over Niagara Wheatfield at Depew High School.
Despite scoring the first five runs of the game, Niagara Wheatfield tried to mount a comeback attempt in the final two innings of the game. They scored two runs in the sixth inning before ending the inning with runners at second and third base. The Falcons would also add a run in the seventh inning as well.
"It was tough at the end there," Haynes said. "I felt we controlled the game and then all of a sudden it got away from us and then we buckled down when [Zach] LaPlante came in to close the game."
LaPlante replaced starter Dom Schmidt, who was on six days rest, in the final inning to earn the save. Schmidt struck out six batters in six innings of work, allowing two runs on five hits. He finished the game with 120 pitches.
"This morning I woke up and I had a special feeling," Schmidt said after the game with ice bags wrapped around his left shoulder and elbow. "This is all I have ever asked for is to get to the championship game, the ball to be in my hands."
Kenmore West’s offense struck gold in the third inning, scoring four of their five runs. Zac Boyes hit an RBI single before Rafael Smith and Jairo Santos each had clutch RBI hits.
Boyes would add another tally for the Blue Devils off an RBI double in the fourth inning.
Earlier at Depew in the Class B-2 final, top-seeded Roy-Hart punched their ticket to the overall Class B championship game for a second year in a row with a 5-1 victory over Gowanda.
"It’s awesome. These guys have been working hard," Roy-Hart head coach Michael Tarnowski said of his team. "It actually started when they were on JV. These guys are a close group. It’s awesome for the program, it’s good to be back."
Roy-Hart jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to an RBI single by Gavyn Boyle and an RBI triple by Walker Samanka. The Rams added two more runs in the fourth inning and an insurance marker in the sixth.
Samanka went 1 for 2 at the plate with a walk and run scored. The senior started the game at first base before replacing Charlie Bruning on the mound in the fifth inning.
Bruning struck out four batters in as many innings, allowing three hits while walking just one.
In Samanka’s first inning of relief, he dealt with slippery mound conditions due to nagging rain showers. Despite the weather, and needing to wear turf shoes rather than traditional metal cleats, he settled in nicely allowing an unearned run on two hits. He struck out four of the 14 batters he faced.
"I struggled a little bit in the beginning, but I started throwing strikes and getting strikeouts and was feeling confident," Samanka said.
With Roy-Hart’s victory, it ensures an all-Niagara-Orleans Class B title game at Canisius College on Saturday at 3 p.m., as Medina won the Class B-1 title.
"The league is one of the best in Western New York," Tarnowski said of the Niagara-Orleans league. "Everybody has an ace or two aces. I’m happy that the league is represented, but I hope we come out on top."