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Frontier works out of seventh-inning jam to win Section VI Class AA baseball

Matt D’Orlando faced a dicey situation in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Frontier High School relief pitcher entered the game with runners on first and second and no outs, and had to face the lower half of Clarence’s lineup.

D’Orlando didn’t get out of the inning unscathed. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced, then gave up a run on Ryan Culhane’s sacrifice fly with one out. But D’Orlando, who is called “Matty Ice” by his teammates – kept his cool as he and the Falcons closed a 5-4 win against Clarence for the Section VI Class AA championship Sunday at the Demske Sports Complex at Canisius College.

“There was a good amount of pressure, I’m not going to lie,” D’Orlando said. “But I’m used to pressure situations and I’ve pitched in some big games this year, so I was used to it. I had to stay calm and do what I know, and know what I can do.”

Frontier ended the game when freshman catcher Gavin Borrello picked off a runner at third base.

Frontier won its first AA title since 1993. The Falcons kept Clarence from winning its first AA title since 2017. The Red Devils had won six AA titles since 2007.

“Our kids played with a lot of heart,” Clarence coach Dave Smith said. “They kept going up on us, and we’d come back. All you can ask for is to give yourself a chance to win, and our guys battled. We had good at-bats in the last inning and we had a chance to win. We just didn’t execute at the end, but I’m super proud of the guys for battling.”

Frontier advances to the Class AA Regionals on Saturday at Lockport. The Falcons will face McQuaid Jesuit, the Section V Class AA champion.

The Section VI Class AA title game concluded less than 24 hours after its original start time of 6 p.m. Saturday at Canisius. Heavy rains and lightning Saturday night suspended the game until Sunday afternoon.

“It’s tough because we definitely had the momentum,” D’Orlando said of continuing the game Sunday. “We had to keep it going, keep the energy up. The energy was up yesterday, and it was up today, too.”

Smith took a different approach with his team as it prepared for the resumption of the sectional title game.

“We talked about this, and you get so amped up last night, and it’s really, really difficult to make it back to that level of intensity. We took the foot off the throttle today during warmups and we were a little more laid back. It’s difficult to maintain that level of intensity for 24 hours. Then, we turned it up as game time came, and the guys were ready to play.”

On Saturday, Clarence took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Culhane's sacrifice fly drove in Isaiah Corry. Declan Wyman's two-out double to left field in the top of the second drove in Alex Hiam and Borrello to give Frontier a 2-1 lead, and Brennen Kilcoyne drove in Brian Norsen on a fielder's choice in the top of the third for a 3-1 lead.

But the game went into a rain delay and was suspended until Sunday afternoon after Clarence’s Aiden Wallace reached base on a walk in the bottom of the third.

When the game resumed Sunday, the Falcons maintained a two-run lead in the third and fourth innings through a combination of well-timed strikeouts and strategic defensive play.

Norsen’s solo home run over the left-field fence in the top of the fifth gave the Falcons a 4-1 lead, but the Red Devils cut the lead to 4-3 in the sixth on Corry’s RBI triple and a throwing error that allowed Corry to score. The Falcons added a run in the sixth when Borrello’s one out single drove in Hiam.

Then, Clarence loaded the bases twice in the seventh.

“All year we’ve been put in pressure situations, and it just built up to this,” said Norsen, who went 3 for 4. “Everybody stayed calm. We have a lot of experienced guys, and that’s when this experience comes in handy, right there.”

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