By CHRIS BROOKS, sports editor, wellsvillesports.com @iambrooskie
NAPLES — There has been no team that has entered the Sectional playing field whose bats have been engulfed with flames more than the ones that belong to the No. 7 JagDogs of Genesee Valley/Belfast, who because of it, have been able to reincarnate a turnaround season since the beginning of the year.
The JagDogs have been electric and fiery, especially in the back half of their season. The hope was to continue keeping their fire ablaze when their Sectional journey continued on Wednesday over the road in Naples, by visiting the No. 3 Big Green for a chance to claim a spot in the Class D Semifinal round.
But at some point, all great things must reach its conclusion. For Naples, they were able to cool off Genesee Valley/Belfast’s hot bats by igniting a flame of their own.
The Big Green began to settle in after exchanging a scoreless first inning with the JagDogs. With a quick inning in the books on defense in the next frame, the offense began to launch all the fireworks from within their arsenal, capitalizing on every form of attack they could to record a six-run stanza that ultimately set the tone for what came to be, as they ended Genesee Valley/Belfast’s season with a 13-4 home win.
“They put the ball in play, and they made us get them out. We didn’t do that,” said GV/Belfast co-coach Derek Kenyon. “We had a lot of errors, and we couldn’t capitalize ourselves. They’re a good team, their hitting is amazing and their two-strike approach was very good. A little bit of choke-and-poke, they put it on us and we failed. Congrats to them, they played a great game, the pitcher pitched a great game, the baserunning was great. Everything went their way.”
The Big Green kept Genesee Valley/Belfast (11-11) almost completely frozen on offense the entire game, scoring a tone-setting six-run frame in the opening sequences to use as momentum that they would hold in their possession. The lead they garnered was one that was never given up, despite some glimpses from the JagDogs offense who continued to fight until their season reached its end.
Across the next four innings, the No. 7 seeds chipped away little by little with a run in each of the next four innings of play. It was a circumstance that could have very well taken a drastic turn, but Kenyon said that the team never kept their heads down, remaining in the battle until the end.
“This team never gave up. We started chipping away here and there, but we hit the ball right at them,” he said. “The game felt a lot closer than the score dictated. It felt like a close game. We played a wail of a game, and the last two weeks have been one of the most fun rides I’ve been a part of. They’ve been hitting the crud out of the ball, a lot of home runs, the pitching was on. We should have beaten this team, but we couldn’t pull it out in the end.”
The JagDogs scored four runs in the middle frames off just two hits in all, as the Naples defense locked down the visitors in dominant fashion. One of those hits stemmed from Trent Scott, who would deliver the team’s first RBI of the day off a single into the outfield in the top of the third to score Jesse Babbitt.
But as soon as Genesee Valley/Belfast would put a run on the board, the Big Green provided ample responses each time, maintaining their buffer zone ahead of the JagDogs each step of the way.
Their final three runs of the season were plated off a Thai Norasethaporn sacrifice fly into the outfield in the top of the fourth, an RBI single from Elden Aquila into the infield in the fifth and another sacrifice off the bat of Max Miller into center.
On the mound, Trent Scott provided one final solid showing in relief, fanning six and walking three to keep Naples at bay after the explosive start to the game.
The season is over for Genesee Valley/Belfast, and it was one that the team completed a massive turnaround in. After starting the season with a 1-6 record through the first seven games, the JagDogs bounced back and turned on the jets with 10 wins in their last 15 games to record an 11-11 finish in their first season as a combined unit.
As the old saying goes, it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
“We preached from day one that it’s not how you start, but how you finish,” Kenyon said. “It was our first year together, and they played soccer together already before splitting back up for basketball this past winter. We still had to try and bring them back together again. There’s a lot of baseball players on this team, and we had to find positions for them. It was a cold open early, using some of the tournament games we had as scrimmages to feel things out. As soon as we flipped the switch, we started rolling. Our pitching and hitting was solid, but fielding has been our weak spot, but we were able to find our happy medium through it.”
A young JagDogs team will say goodbye to six of their Seniors when graduation comes for both schools in a matter of weeks, as Matt Weaver, Max Miller and Jake Buchholz prepare to graduate with Belfast, while Scott, Jesse Babbitt and Gavin Szalay get set to walk across the stage at Genesee Valley.
Kenyon said that despite some adversity that both schools had to climb over with a first full season together as one team, on most occasions it had felt like he had coached them for ages.
“The Seniors made it easy for us, and it was seamless,” he said. “The Seniors made it look like we’ve been coaching them for 20 years. They all showed up and wanted to play. There was no animosity, and that really was what it was all about. We were there for them, and all we had to do was steer them a certain way to make sure they stay on the right track. When they are, they take over.”
Kenyon’s fellow co-coach, Kevin Scott added on the Seniors and their contributions, saying that “I am proud of these kids. They fought hard all season. Tonight just wasn’t our night. It’s been an honor coaching our Seniors Matt, Trent, Max, Jesse, Jake and Gavin. I am going to miss them greatly, but we will have a good young core next year. It was a little bittersweet for me with this being the last time I coached my son after 12 years. It has been a lot of fun.”
As for his Seniors on the Belfast side that he has seen grow over the years, Kenyon said that they were the kids saw their confidence grow tremendously, but at the same time, have a lot of fun playing the game they love.
“Matt Weaver was one of my first crews back during the farm league days. He was so good that he came up to play with the older boys,” he said. “He’s the last of that era to leave us, but I’ve been watching these guys grow up over the years and the confidence they all have built, year to year, it rose. The best thing is practice. They were at every practice on time, and they had fun. They love this game. There’s too many other Seniors to talk about over the years, but this has always been the Belfast way.”
In the midst of the team’s conclusion to their season, it would also be the final game that Kenyon would serve as a coach after nine seasons that saw the team collect multiple Allegany County Division II Championships, back-to-back trips to the Class D2 Finals and a ton of memories coaching at the Varsity level, primarily with Belfast over the years.
At game’s end, Kenyon handed out one of his many thanks for his time coaching.
“I just want to give my thanks to all of the kids that I’ve had an opportunity to coach over the years, the parents that have come out to support us, the school, the fans, the list goes on,” he said. “This has been an incredible ride that I have been a part of for the last nine years, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Because of them, I have built so many memories that I will remember for a long time. The amazing games, the trips through the playoffs, back-to-back Sectional Finals. I will remember all of the great times that I have had. I also want to thank Chris Brooks for his tireless coverage and his immense appreciation for not only our kids during my time coaching in Belfast, but for everyone else in Allegany County over the years. He does everything right. He supports everyone and there is no one that simply dedicates their time putting in the hard work, and supporting our kids in athletics as much as he does.”
Genesee Valley/Belfast 001 111 0 – 4 2 6
Naples 063 112 X – 13 11 3
GVB – Carter Stout (LP) (K, 2BB), Trent Scott (3) (6K, 3BB), and Justin Hill.
NAP – Charlie Grove (WP) (4K, 2BB), O. Brown (7) (2K), and Max Ryan.
No. 1 Fillmore 13, No. 9 Lima Christian 4
FILLMORE — Three different hitters for the top-seeded Eagles of Fillmore all recorded a pair of hits at the plate to power an offensive effort that saw them bust open the floodgates bright and early on Wednesday, rolling towards a massive lead of No. 9 Lima Christian that they never looked back on, as they claimed a spot in Friday’s Class D Semifinals with a 13-4 rout of the visiting Saints.
It was a start that saw the Saints collect the game’s first pair of runs in their opening stint of offense. One that Fillmore (14-3) in turn was able to provide a response for in overwhelming fashion. In the bottom of the first, the Eagles brought all of their offensive prowess to the table, scoring seven of their 13 total runs in their first at-bats to grab a lead that saw them assume total control.
Lima Christian would attempt to chip away at their deficit in the third with their last two runs of the game, but just as quick as the Saints did that, the Eagles bounced right back with an even bigger response – concluding the game with six unanswered runs, including a pair in the bottom half of the third to regain their seven-run lead on the Saints.
In all, Fillmore totaled 13 runs off eight hits at the plate, with Brent Zubikowski helping lead the efforts with a pair, including a two-run double. Luke Colombo and Jude Beardsley pitched in with two hits each, with Beardsley’s including a double of his own.
As for the defense, Damon Potter came on in relief of Luke Colombo (three strikeouts, four walks) in the third inning and would immediately keep Lima Christian at a complete standstill after the No. 9 seeds trimmed down Fillmore’s lead to 7-4 in the top half of the third.
How big of a response? – Try 10 strikeouts and just two walks in his five innings of relief.
Fillmore has now advanced into the Semifinal round of the Class D Playoffs, which begin Friday night with one final home game this season, as they prepare to face the No. 5 C.G. Finney Falcons for a spot in the Finals next week.
Lima Christian 202 000 0 – 4 5 3
Fillmore 702 022 X – 13 8 5
LC – Caleb Welker (LP) (4BB), Nathan Herring (1) (3K, BB), Evan Herring (6) (K, 2BB), and Curtis Welker.
FIL – Luke Colombo (WP) (3K, 4BB), Damon Potter (3) (10K, 2BB), and Alex Ellsworth.
Class C2 Quarterfinals
No. 2 Oakfield-Alabama 21, No. 7 Cuba-Rushford 1
OAKFIELD — The No. 7 Rebels of Cuba-Rushford found themselves in a deep hole to begin their trip to No. 2 Oakfield-Alabama, as the host Hornets cashed in on all the opportunities that were presented in front of them across all phases of the game, as they rolled towards a spot in the Class C2 Semifinals with a 21-1 home win on Wednesday.
Out of the 21 total runs scored by the Hornets, nine of those runs would go on to allow the team to set the tone immediately out of the starting gate against the Rebels (9-12), putting it towards what was a 21-run, 15-hit effort for their offense.
Despite the deep deficit, the Rebels were showed signs of quit, as they fought their way to the fourth inning where they were able to eliminate the possibility of a shutout bid, with help from Jarrett Campbell and his RBI single, scoring Benson McCumiskey to erase the goose egg occupying the top half of the scoreboard.
But the one run was all Cuba-Rushford would garner, as Oakfield-Alabama settled back in and scored 12 straight runs to close out the game.
In addition to one of the team’s four total hits in the game, McCumiskey struck out three and walked two in his three-inning start for the Saints. McCumiskey would finish with two of the team’s four hits, while Noah Siegel added in the team’s final knock on a single.
The regular season is now over for the Rebels, as they conclude with a record of 9-12 overall.
The team will graduate all 11 of their Seniors at the end of the school, in: McCumiskey, Campbell, Siegel, Austin Pinney, Austin Clement, Jon White, Logan Lewis, Hunter Rix, Dylan Bassett, Mason Grasso and Casey Linderman Jr.
Cuba-Rushford 000 100 0 – 1 4 8
Oakfield-Alabama 432 660 X – 21 15 0
C-R – Benson McCumiskey (LP) (3K, 2BB), Eli Sleggs (4) (K, BB), Austin Pinney (5) (BB), and Logan Lewis.
O-A – Kyle Porter (WP) (7K, 4BB), Colton Yasses (4) (4K, 4BB), Austin Pangrazio (7) (2K), and Aiden Warner.
Class C3 Quarterfinals
No. 1 Bolivar-Richburg 14, No. 8 Lyndonville 4
BOLIVAR — An early battle for the top-seeded Bolivar-Richburg Wolverines and No. 8 Lyndonville developed fairly quickly in the beginning stages of their Class C3 Quarterfinal battle at Keshequa, Wednesday night. A battle that saw 12 combined runs out of the game’s 18 in all being scored in the first three innings of play.
The bulk of those runs would belong to the Wolverines, who avoided some big pressure from the Tigers to give their opposition some of the same medicine in return, scoring the game’s last six runs in a row to break the 10-run plateau on their way towards a Semifinals berth after a 14-4 victory.
“We had a little bit of rust, having not played since last Thursday. But we were able to string things together at the right time. Cam (MacDonell) was huge tonight at the plate with the other guys that also managed to come through for us,” said Wolverines coach Dustin Allen. “The goal was to give Landon some work for the first few innings before turning the ball over to our pen, and we were able to get some solid innings from Caden (Allen) and Reiss (Gaines). We got some things to clean up before we get ready to go again on Friday.”
Three different hitters all recorded a pair of hits at the plate in the midst of their 14-run, 13-hit bonanza at the plate against Lyndonville. Among them, was Cam MacDonell, who provided perhaps the biggest presence on the frontlines for the Wolverines (20-1), going 3-for-4 with a home run, triple and four total RBI.
The Wolverines started the game by delivering back and forth punches with the Tigers in the first three innings, seeing a pair of lead changes along the way. The top-seeds would have the last one to end the game with additional thanks towards a four-run home half of the second that spring-boarded the team out in front.
Helping further the cause on the attack was Landon Danaher, who had two hits. Trey Buchholz added in two hits of his own, driving in three in the process while Wyatt Karnuth blasted a triple and drove in a pair.
On the mound, the win was awarded to Danaher across two innings of work, striking out five and walking two.
Bolivar-Richburg will now get set to host their final home game this season in the Class C3 Semifinal round on Friday, as they host No. 5 Harley Allendale-Columbia to a chance to claim a spot in next week’s Finals.
First pitch is slated for a 5:30 p.m. start in Bolivar.
Lyndonville 031 000 0 – 4 4 6
Bolivar-Richburg 242 150 X – 14 13 4
LYN – Trenton Muck (LP) (4K, 5BB), Michael Marker (6) (2K), and Jack Whipple.
B-R – Landon Danaher (WP) (5K, 2BB), Caden Allen (3) (2K, BB), Reiss Gaines (5) (5K, BB), and Aydin Sisson.
Class B4 Semifinals
No. 3 Naples 4, No. 2 Fillmore 1
HOUGHTON — The untouchable top seeds in Class B4 boys tennis may have been issued their biggest challenge of the season to date, taking shape of No. 3 Naples on Wednesday at Houghton College in a battle that saw the Eagles of Fillmore see something they have not seen once this year – the loss column.
With a perfect 15-0 record on the line and a chance to make their grand return to the Finals, the Big Green traveled over the road and provided a stellar showcase of tennis against the Eagles to keep them off-kilter, as they went on to score four of the five victories on the court to lay claim on a 4-1 win to finish off a massive upset in Sectional play.
“It was just a really tough match tonight,” Eagles coach Randy Crouch said. “Naples is always a strong program, and we knew that we would have our hands full. Half of the team has been dealing with the flu for the past few days, and we were able to fight through it last night. Asking for that on a second straight night was just too much. It was apparent that a few of the guys were out of gas. I would love a chance to play them again healthy, but that being said, it still would have been a tight match.”
Fillmore’s (15-1) lone victory – their last of the season, came from their lone Senior on the team in Carter Sisson at second singles, as he dueled Naples’ Austin Chapman in a battle that saw almost everything. With each competitor sharing a set to force a third, the pressure began to mount.
Both players would trade points across the court, one after another, until a thrilling and lengthy third set came into play in the shape of a pair of tiebreaks, which were awarded to Chapman in the end, as she took the 10-7 victory in the second tiebreak to record the 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10-7) win
All four of Naples’ wins were in straights sets across the board, with their second doubles battle seeing a ton of action between Fillmore’s Marcus Wolfer and Jack Boon, as they fought right alongside Jacob Betrus and Nedelcho Neumann all game long until the Naples second doubles team was able to squeeze their way past and towards victory.
The season is now over for the Fillmore Eagles, as they wrap up another brilliant season of boys tennis with a record of 15-1 overall. The team will lose just their one Senior in Carter Sisson at year’s end in just a few short weeks from now.
“In the end, I am just really proud of my guys and how they have been representing Fillmore all season, especially my lone Senior, Carter. He represents the very best of what student-athletes are supposed to be. It’s been a privilege to coach him, and I wish we could have had a different outcome for him. He’ll be tough to replace, but we return a great young group for next year, and we can try to get back on top with some hard work this summer.”
1. Matthew Lincoln (NAP) def. Eben Schilke (FIL), 6-2, 6-2.
2. Carter Sisson (FIL) def. Austin Chapman (NAP), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10-7).
3. Wes McMullen (NAP) def. Isaiah Sisson (FIL), 6-1, 6-4.
1. Landon Gleichauf/Ian Kenney (NAP) def. Joe Derck/Layton Sanasith (FIL), 6-1, 6-4.
2. Jacob Betrus/Nedelcho Neumann (NAP) def. Marcus Wolfer/Jack Boon (FIL), 6-4, 6-4.