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Beauty in Belmont by, Delleny Molisani

Sectional brackets, previews, photos: The underdog Wellsville Lions baseball team poised for Section V title run

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Photos by CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com

The Wellsville Lions have a tough road, and it starts tonight on the road against North Rose-Wolcott in Canandaigua.

While the Lions are the #7 seed, they have sectional experience and the pitching, hitting and defense to make a run for the title. The Lions would have to upset the #2 seed to reach the semifinals, where they would face familiar sectional and regular season foes in Bath or Attica.

From there, it could be another matchup with #1 Way-Co, a team the Lions narrowly lost to, 6-2 earlier this season when injuries were the factor.

Wellsville may be the No. 7 team out of 9 at 9-11, but the Lions appear to be on the mend, healthy and ready to start the post-season, where every team is 0-0.

(See more Wellsville photos and game information below)

Here are some Wellsville late season highlights and photos:

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Photos by Chris Brooks from the Lions Senior Night 1-0 game vs. Hornell:

Above, the seniors, Cody Costello, Logan Dunbar, Kavan O’Grady and Aidan RIley with their families.

WELLSVILLE — To say that the Lions of Wellsville are more than elated to have Alex Green back in the lineup would be the most massive of understatements. In his three games back, the catcher has been engulfed with flames at the plate with 10 hits in 14 plate appearances.

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That included a perfect 4-for-4 outing in Thursday night’s regular season finale against Cuba-Rushford, where he helped Wellsville get the ball rolling in a hurry with a two-run home run in the team’s opening at-bats. Green would wind up recording a whopping seven RBI to go with two runs scored to ensure the strongest of conclusions to the regular season with a 12-2 win after six innings over the visiting Rebels.

“Alex really adds something special to our lineup, and because of him we were able to jump out to a 3-0 lead to start off his home run,” said Lions coach Tom Delahunt. “We kind of never looked back after that. We’re starting to develop some confidence at the plate, and in the last few games, we scored at least 12 runs aside from last night’s game with Hornell. We’ve been swinging the bat really well, and that’s big, especially going into Sectionals.”

Wellsville would score three runs in each of the first three innings of play to set the tone almost immediately against Cuba-Rushford, with Green’s homer highlighting an 3-0 early lead after the opening frame. From that point on, the Lions would continue to build large amounts of momentum while keeping the Rebels in check, despite allowing their two lone runs in the top of the third to cut the deficit down to 6-2.

The Lions went on to score the game’s last six runs, including a two-run bottom of the sixth to push them over the top to force an early end to the battle, as they made sure their regular season would end of the highest of notes heading into the second season. In all, the hosts accounted for 12 runs off 14 total hits, with four different batters recording at least a pair at the plate.

Behind Green was the compilation of Gavin Haggerty, Cooper Brockway and Logan Dunbar, all posting two hits. On the mound, Haggerty recorded the win with four strikeouts and three walks before being relieved by another outstanding performance from Trenton Green in relief, as he fanned five more Rebels batters and walked one across his three innings of relief.

For Cuba-Rushford, Braeden Wight and Finn Ricketts each recorded two hits out of the team’s six total to pace the attack. On the hill, Wight provided solid relief behind four strikeouts and four walks.

The regular season is now over for both teams, as the wait for Sectional play now begins with the Lions wrapping up at 9-11 overall, while the Rebels finish at 11-8.

Cuba-Rushford 002 000 – 2 6 3

Wellsville 333 102 – 12 14 0

C-R – Allen Fuller (LP) (2BB), Jacob Smith (3), Braeden Wight (4) (4K, 4BB) and Sam Grover.

WLSV – Gavin Haggerty (WP) (4K, 3BB), Trenton Green (4) (5K, BB) and Alex Green.

Wellsville also had a huge showing against Hornell:

Four seniors suited up the orange and black for the first of their two last regular season home games ever. One final Senior Night to celebrate this school year. Perhaps the most emotional of them all.

As the journey begins to wind down from Wednesday night in the Lion’s Den until Graduation fever sets in just over a month from now, so does the road towards Sectionals. After a season-series sweep of Red Jacket this past weekend, the Lions of Wellsville aimed to keep the momentum heading into the second season in their favor with a longtime arch-rival in town — the Hornell Red Raiders.

In the case of many occasions across many sports, Hornell and Wellsville presents a unique clash unlike any other. Their latest installment on the baseball diamond was even more evidence of that.

Both squads were in the fight for their baseball lives as the sun began to set in the Lion’s Den. A fight that saw no cracks in the ice across seven straight innings.

With Gates Miller keeping the Lions on their feet at the plate for Hornell, and with Logan Dunbar dealing the performance of his career in return on the other side, extra innings were ultimately required to decide it all. For Hornell: a potential season-series clincher against Wellsville, while for the Lions? — A chance to keep their wheels spinning into Sectionals next week.

Something had to give.

Just one extra inning was needed to make all the difference. And with it, a complete shift in momentum. What was one of the most dominant performances of his career, morphed into an ice-breaking moment for the Red Raiders in the top of the eighth. A very large break.

Gates Miller got the best of both worlds.

The Hornell hurler made the best of his final opportunity at the plate and two runners on in scoring position, as Miller sent a ball into shallow left field that died just enough to drop, allowing the game’s lone run to score on his single that would stand as the game-winner, as he ushered the Red Raiders off the field and escorted them back off rapidly to keep Wellsville at bay to spoil the Lions’ Senior Night with his complete game 1-0 victory.

“We got the performance out of our senior that we needed. It’s one of the best performances of his career, and it’s too bad that it came on a loss in extra innings, because he was a workhorse for us tonight,” said Lions coach Tom Delahunt. “It was Senior Night, and he was really amped to get this start tonight against a team he really loves playing against across all sports. It’s unfortunate that we came out on the other side of things in a really tight battle. This one stings.”

Dunbar kept Hornell off the bases during the majority of his time spent on the mound for the Lions (8-11), as he started the night strongly with seven strikeouts through his first nine batters while allowing just one hit from Shawn Rose and his single into right field across the first three shutout innings.

Along the way, Wellsville was presented with multiple opportunities to attempt at breaking the ice, with Alex Green reaching base on a lead-off poke into right field. He would ultimately work his way around the bases to third, but would be left on a short time later by Miller and the Red Raiders defense to close out a scoreless fourth frame.

A short time later, the dominance authored by Dunbar resumed in the fifth, as he struck out the Hornell side once more to up his total at that point to 11, in 13 batters faced through five complete innings. Dunbar would wind up finishing with 16 strikeouts to pair with three walks across his three-hit gem.

Wellsville had to dig in and find a way to build off of Dunbar’s reign on the mound. Their time to make noise came in perhaps their best opportunity to break through — at the very end of the game.

With back-to-back hits from Aidan Riley on a liner into right, and a beautifully-positioned bunt squared down by Matt Ritter down the third base line, the Lions were in business, with each runner moving into scoring position with one out for the Red Raiders defense.

But once more, the visitors in red and blue navigated their way off one more time a short time later to evade the potential game-winning drive from Wellsville on a Derek Coleman fly out to deep center field to force the scoreless deadlock into extra innings.

“We had a couple of chances where we couldn’t quite capitalize when we had runners on base,” Delahunt said. “You talk about situational hitting, and sometimes, you just have to find a way to hit the ball into the holes in the field. You just have to cut the swing down just enough to do what’s needed at that particular time. That’s something we’ve been struggling with all year long.”

Holding possession of the first opportunity to finally have a chance to crack through in extra innings, Hornell would not squander it. And it was done by none other than Gates Miller himself. With a pair of Red Raiders awaiting their call to home plate on base, Miller delivered a devastating blow into shallow left field, dropping a two-out single to collect the game’s first RBI while Aidan Riley provided a tag on the next runner down the third base line to prevent any more damage from being applied.

All of a sudden, the Lions were pushed against the wall.

In the bottom half of the inning, Wellsville would grab one final chance to drive a potential game-tying sequence with Cody Costello reaching on a dropped third strike. But the Lions would then go down in order to close out the night, as Miller ensured his night would end with the complete game victory in his hands, as they edged out their longtime rival in another instant classic.

The Lions were able to garner seven hits at the plate in all, with Gavin Haggerty’s 2-for-3 outing at the plate leading the way. Aidan Riley, Trenton Green, Alex Green and Cody Costello all had a hit to chip in.

For Hornell, Miller scored the win with five strikeouts in his complete eight-inning start. At the plate, Shawn Rose led the bats with two of the team’s three hits to pair alongside Miller’s game-winning RBI single in the eighth.

Prior to the series finale, the Lions celebrated Senior Night by honoring all four of their seniors — Dunbar, Costello, Riley and Kavan O’Grady for their contributions to the program over the years. After dealing with injury for most of his senior season, the Lions honored O’Grady by throwing a single pitch while he stood in center field, looking on, as Delahunt signaled for him to come in.

On his way back into the dugout, he was greeted with a wide array of hugs and emotions shared amongst his teammates and his coaches.

Delahunt reflected on his group of seniors, noting how much their efforts have been unmatched to the program.

“We’re definitely going to miss those four guys,” he said. “Cody’s been our lead-off hitter since day one and he’s been one heck of a player. Aidan Riley came back to playing baseball this year and he accepted some new roles for us while coming along as a great hitter. Kavan was looking forward to his senior year, but he didn’t really have a chance to show what he had because he’s been nursing an injury. But to give him a moment with his teammates before the game tonight, that was something really special. And then Logan, he’s taken the ball every time I’ve given it to him without question. He’s worked through and pitched through some hard luck. There were games where he really made good pitches and kept us in the game, and we weren’t there for him. This program will miss his presence dearly next year.”

The Lions will finish out their regular season slate back inside the Lion’s Den tonight with a 5 p.m. first pitch against the Rebels of Cuba-Rushford.

Hornell 000 000 01 – 1 3 2

Wellsville 000 000 00 – 0 7 1

HHS – Gates Miller (WP) (CG, 5K) and Jake Ponticello.

WLSV – Logan Dunbar (LP) (CG, 16K, 3BB) and Alex Green.

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