Hamburg fell to Allegany in the Legion playoffs. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes.
There have been better results from the Hamburg Post 572 American Legion baseball team this summer than the previous season, and Ryan Ilardi’s ball club was hoping to continue that trend into postseason play.
Hamburg started the summer off slow, but finished the regular season strong and took a three-game winning streak down to Allegany, where No. 3 Allegany Post 892 ended sixth-seeded Hamburg Post’s season in the American Legion play-in game with a 5-2 decision at Stayer Park on July 17.
“Obviously, anytime a team triples its win total from one year to the next, the coach will take that,” said Ilardi, who coached Hamburg to a 6-10 mark this summer after the club went 2-14 last summer. “As a coach, I am especially proud of what this team accomplished as we had problems with guys consistently showing up and rarely had our best lineup on the field.”
This season began much like how last summer turned out, as Hamburg Post posted a 2-8 mark 10 games into its schedule. However, Hamburg was able to discover that its team could compete with the best of the best as long as they all stayed committed and came together with a common goal of winning.
“After getting off to a 2-8 start [due to not having the entire team around] the team rallied to finish the season 4-2,” said Ilardi, whose team earned victories over last year’s state champion, West Seneca Post 735, and defending South Division champion, Eden Post 880.
The play-in game was the fourth meeting between the two ball clubs. Allegany Post won all four contests, defeating Hamburg 4-0, 7-2 and 7-6 in the regular season.
“They were a team we played close games with all year but just could not beat,” said Ilardi.
There were keys players missing from Hamburg’s roster during the play-in game, hurting the team on the scoreboard as Ilardi’s club was not able to keep up with enough runs to leave Allegany with a victory.
“Offensively and defensively we were hurt by not having or best lineup on the field due to guys missing the game,” Ilardi noted. “We were missing three starters and it showed offensively, as well, as we only mustered five hits and two runs.”
Hilbert pitcher and St. Francis grad Sal Carroccia started on the mound and went four innings, letting up five hits, three walks, five strikeouts and only two earned runs.
“We let up three runs in the bottom of the third and two in the bottom of the fourth while committing two errors in each of those innings,” said Ilardi.
Sean Martin came in with no outs and one on in the bottom of the fifth. He ended up facing the minimum of six batters as he went two innings of perfect relief with four strikeouts.
Tom Stoklosa of Frontier led off the top of the fourth down 3-0 with a double off the left centerfield fence, but Hamburg was unable to score him after Martin moved him over to third base with one out.
Martin went 1-for-3 and Thomas Raiport continued his hot hitting-streak to finish the season as he went 2-for-3 with a double.
“Perhaps it was best summed up by Sal Carroccia,” said Ilardi. “[Allegany Post is] a team we should be able to beat but just don’t play well enough against.”
Stayer Park marked the final games for Ilardi’s group of 19-year-old ball players: Martin, Carroccia, Evan Johnston, Mike Vogel and Tyler Freeman. They have experienced plenty of losses as a group, but came together to make the best of their final season with Hamburg.
“These guys went through a lot of losing seasons in their Legion careers for the Hamburg Post, but I am glad that they got a chance to play in the playoffs in their final season,” Ilardi said.
This is a Hamburg team that beat three of the top four teams in the South Division in West Seneca, Wellsville and Eden, along with blowing a 4-1 seventh inning lead against the eventual fifth-seeded Orchard Park.
Hamburg swept South Buffalo on a late-season Saturday doubleheader to almost definitely secure a playoff spot, while then securing it in the next game with a win against Eden, who was in contention for the second spot and a first-round playoff bye with victories in its final two games.
“I think the season will to a certain extent have a feeling of what if, in terms of what would have happened if we were able to consistently put our best lineup on the field,” he said. “Now in a summer league, most, if not all, teams struggle with this, but I feel as if we had to to an extreme extent at times this season.
“However, on the plus side, everybody got to play a good amount this season and nobody can complain about playing time, which I take pride in as the coach.”