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NFL/NO leagues prove their worthiness at Baseball Showcase

A WINNING SWING — Tim Stoerr was one of three Kenmore West baseball players to help guide the NFL/NO team to a championship at the second annual Underclassmen Baseball/Softball Showcase at the North Collins sports complex. Photo by Dave DeLauca.
Rick Deiboldt wasn’t happy with his performance from the first game at the Underclassmen Baseball Showcase over the weekend.

But with the team he played for from Niagara Frontier League/Niagara-Orleans winning the opener and advancing to the newly-established championship round later that day, the Kenmore West soon-to-be junior was given another chance to showcase his talents. And he wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip away.

Deiboltd finished with two hits, including a two-RBI double which accounted for the game-winning runs, in the NFL/NO’s 6-4 win over the Erie County Interscholastic Conference team in the championship game of the showcase on Saturday (Aug. 17) at the North Collins sports complex. He was also named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Before the game, Deiboldt went to West assistant coach Paul Leto and asked to be thrown some soft tosses in preparation for the final. A little extra work in the short time in between contests seemed to make all the difference.

“The first game wasn’t the best for me,” said Deiboldt, who went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts but did throw out two runners from behind the plate. “I was trying to get my swing back in-between (games) and I think that helped a lot...It was a great feeling for me to be able to turn it around.”

It was the third game of the day, after ECIC led off the afternoon with a 4-2 win over the Chautauqua/Cattaraugus Athletic Association team and then NFL/NO advanced to the final by holding off the Monsignor Martin 5-3.

Dieboldt would not have had the same opportunity if not for the new format instituted by event organizer Rob Catalino. Both the baseball and softball competitions went from one to three games each with a championship deciding supremacy among the Western New York leagues.

“It’s a great opportunity to come down and play in this. Rob did an awesome job of putting this together and dividing it up into four teams in this format,” said John Haynes, the head coach of Kenmore West, who led the NFL-NO team. “Another thing that’s great is you’re getting the best of the best. Usually you’re struggling for pitchers but we had seven or eight guys and you just go with the next guy. The kids were also great — they performed very well.”

Not only did Haynes get to enjoy seeing the performances of his own players — Dieboldt, Tom Lunghino and Tim Stoerr, but he also saw his league prove its worthiness among the giants of WNY.

“Take nothing away from the ECIC and Monsignor Martin, but it seems like they always get the praise and the Niagara Frontier and Niagara Orleans — not to say we don’t get it, but not enough,” Haynes said. “And there’s a lot of good athletes all around. It’s an awesome experience for our league to get an opportunity to come out and win the showcase.”

West players actually came through with four RBI during the NFL/NO’s five-run fourth. Two batters after Deibolt’ds two-run double, Lunghino came through with a RBI-single and Stoerr would later add a RBI-hit, though a sixth run that inning was thrown out at the plate for the final out.

Also that inning, Connor McMahon of Kenmore East forced a RBI-walk and Noah VanDen Bosch of Lockport singled, stole a base and scored a run. The NFL/NO took advantage of five free passes that inning and led 6-2.

The Eden connection of Dave Baskerville and Brad Palmerton delivered back-to-back RBI hits to bring ECIC within 6-4 in the sixth. Baskerville doubled, scoring opening-game hitting star Coyote Sokolski of Iroquois, who had singled. Baskerville came around on Palmerton’s single.

Ryan Stekl of Lancaster recorded a RBI-single, scoring Redskins’ teammate Joe Preziuso, in the third to put ECIC up 2-1. Clarence’s Bryan Jost walked in a run in the second to give ECIC an early 1-0 lead as he represented the fourth straight two-out base on balls in the second. Michael Colosi of Niagara Falls recorded an one-out infield hit in the bottom of the second, moved over on a Deiboldt single and then scored on an error to tie the game at one apiece for NFL/NO.

Josh Kneeland of Newfane came on in relief in the third inning and gave up only one run in picking up the win. He had pitched three scoreless innings in the NFL-NO’s opening -game win. Charles Sobieraski of Lockport threw the next three innings, before VanDen Bosch closed the game with a scoreless ninth.

“I definitely think we proved ourselves. It was great to have so many good people on this team — the best players from our league — and be able to win and show that we are force to be reckon with in Western New York,” Deiboldt noted.

Sokolski provided the highlight of the day, delivering the only homer over the fence in the opener. He was 2 for 2 and finished with three hits in two contests.

Also for ECIC, Christian Young threw four scoreless innings to lead two well-pitched games. Evan Haroff of Clarence shut down NFL/NO for three innings and Aaron Phillips of Cleveland Hill only yielded one run in his three innings that game. Hamburg’s Kyle Sickau pitched three solid innings in the opener. In the first two games, the defenses played errorless before the final.

“The third game was actually sloppy for these guys. The first game you saw good players, a great field and good baseball. They made it look pretty easy,” said Frontier head coach Mike Morlock, who led the ECIC team along with Lancaster’s Mark Dalfanso.

“I don’t think anyone realizes just how much Robby does to pull this off,” he added. “I love the format. I love the nine innings because you can bring more guys and get more of them involved. And I like that it’s a great opportunity, even for coaches like Mark and I — who are in the same division, to get together and have a good time.”

Nearly 18 college coaches were there Saturday to check out the talent around Western New York. While players like Stekl, who’s Canisius College bound for baseball, have committed, it provided some uncertain senior-bound players and underclassmen the opportunity to be seen.

Among those making the all-tournament team were Walker Cygan of Gowanda, Reston Pettit of Bolivar-Richburg, Tage Johnson of Frewsburg, Brandon Haywood of St. Francis, J.D. Andreeson of St. Mary’s, Alex Kovacs of St. Joe’s, Greg Nicolia of Grand Island, Greg Wroblewski of Lockport, Kneeland, Colosi, Phillips, Young, Harof and Sokoloski.

“There was a ton of college coaches here earlier. It was a great thing for these players, especially the younger one of my guys (Preziuso),” Dalfanso said.

And as the event continues to get bigger, it will keep the young athletes increasingly excited about playing. “It was an absolutely great experience to play on this field and with all of these players. I loved it. I hope I get to do it again,” Deiboldt noted.

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