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Early defensive woes plague Hamburg Post in 13-5 loss

Shawn Martin was one of five Hamburg pitchers. Photo by Ron Larson.
Just a week ago, the Hamburg Post 527 American Legion baseball team defeated West Seneca Post 735 in a tight 6-4 ball game while rotating a handful of pitchers.

The struggling Hamburg-based baseball team hoped to continue that trend when West Seneca came to town on June 23. However, the visitors would use eight runs in the first two innings to leave with a 13-5 victory over Hamburg at St. Francis.

“We came into the game pretty high because we beat West Seneca last week,” said Sal Carroccia, a pitcher for Hamburg who graduated from St. Francis. “We came in with the same strategy that we had last time. We were going to try to use four pitchers, whether it be three innings, two innings, one…however it might work. But defense killed us early.”

“We did make up for it in the bottom of the first with the bats.”

Carroccia was the fourth pitcher up for Hamburg, sharing the mound with Tom Stoklosa of Frontier, Mike Hughes, Shawn Martin from Frannies and Mike Vogel.

Hamburg spotted West Seneca four runs at the top of the first as one error after another snowballed into a 4-0 game. But Eric Brennan was able to keep Hamburg in the ball game when the pinch hitter sent a three-run double into the centerfield fence with two down, making it a 4-3 contest.

“Coach told me early on in the game to be ready because if we had people on, especially if we fell behind early,” said Brennan, who just completed his senior season at St. Francis. “Any at bat was going to be big, no matter where it was in the game. He told me to be ready. I was just trying to help the team out.”

West Seneca responded immediately in the second inning, putting up another four-spot highlighted by a three-run triple by Austin Spindler (West Seneca East) to put his team up 8-4.

We came back, but in the second inning we have to put a zero up in that inning,” said Ryan Ilardi, head coach of Hamburg Post 527. “Most of it has been errors and giving teams extra outs. We’ve been giving them extra outs and they’ve been making us pay. So that’s been the problem for the most part.”

Hamburg was unable to tack on any more runs until the bottom of the seventh. Shawn Martin singled to lead off the inning before Ryan Stefaniak (St. Francis) singled him home.

Tom Stoklosa (Frontier) sent a double to the left field fence that was just short of a solo home run shot, but he made it home on an error to first base off of Carroccia’s bat to add Hamburg’s final run of the ball game.

“Our bats are starting to come around. They started slow in the beginning of the summer,” Ilardi noted.

The loss dropped Ilardi’s ball club to 3-9 on the year.

“Once we’re here, we’re a pretty solid team. But we’re all in different travel leagues and working…the life of an average teenager kind of cost us a few games,” said Francisco Guzman, who will be a senior at St. Francis in the fall.

“Defense has been a problem. A lot of errors defensively due to guys having to play out of position because guys aren’t here,” said Ilardi. “Positives…we have a great group of guys. It makes it easier when you’re losing or struggling to keep loose as a team,” he added. “We’ve had some good pitching efforts. Carroccia is one of our best pitchers. Shawn Martin has thrown the ball well in relief and Tyler Freeman has had a good year throwing.”

“We’ve had some games where we’ve gotten mercied and we’ve lost some close games,” said Ilardi. “Part of the problem have been guys inconsistently showing up with work and other leagues, so that has affected the lineup a bit.”

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