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High School Baseball: Hamburg finishes off ECIC II slate at 9-3

Senior Chris Tuttle tags out a runner at third base during the first of two wins over Sweet Home during the past few weeks. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
The regular season didn’t exactly go as expected for Hamburg but that’s not a bad thing in this case.

While the season so far has played out somewhat unexpectedly, according head coach Steve Chaffee, that in no way has taken away from the Bulldogs’ sparkling 9-3 division record and what looks to be a tie for second with Starpoint in ECIC II, behind only Williamsville South. The regular season finishes up this week before playoffs start Monday, May 20.

Hamburg has played in many games that were a little too close comfort, Chaffee noted, but won most of them, some in come-from-behind fashion, which wasn’t a strong-suit of last season’s team.

The Bulldogs also wound up being led on the mound by a sophomore and junior, while the hitting has been strong throughout the order. Chaffee said there’s been a different player that’s stepped up in virtually every win.

“It’s been a strange season but in a good way,” said Chaffee, who expects to be anywhere from a five to six seed in the Class A playoffs. “(Assistant) Coach (Derek) Hill and I were saying this team could be out of the playoffs in two games or we could be playing for a sectional final. We’re a pretty good team but their are no easy ones out there.”

Such was the case in the Bulldogs’ latest win, having to come-from-behind on a cold and blustery afternoon on Monday (May 13) for a 4-3 win at Sweet Home, one of the teams toward the bottom of the division.

Down 3-0 in the seventh, senior Josh Palisano, who pitched the first five innings, was reinserted into the batting order to hit and came through with a two-RBI double, scoring Tommy Moses and Kyle Sickau. Moses had started the rally with a one-out infield hit and Sickau reached on an error, before Pat Skelly walked to load the bases.

Cam Ringo came through with a sacrifice fly, scoring Skelly, to tie the game, and then Justin LaRosa’s base hit, plated Palisano for the two-out go-ahead run. Ryan Herr earned the win after working the sixth inning on the mound and Ringo got the save, retiring the side in order in the seventh.

“It was a tough hitting day with the cold weather and the wind blowing in, but we finally put some hits together,” Chaffee said.

Chaffee looks back with disappointment only at an 11-10 loss May 1 at Starpoint, after his team gave up four runs in the seventh to force extra innings. But he stopped himself short, considering how many times his team has won close games this year, including in the early-season hitting a walk-off homer to beat Starpoint.

Hamburg also lost twice to South, once in an eight-inning game and another time they were no-hit by hard-throwing, LeMoyne-bound Damian Powers in a 6-0 loss on May 6. Other close games for Hamburg include beating West Seneca East by three runs in an extra inning game and 6-5 and outlasting Williamsville East 9-7 and Iroquois 7-5.

“We’ve had a lot of nice close wins, so we made up for that Starpoint loss,” Chaffee said. “Other than that South no-hitter, we’ve really put the ball in play and runs on the board consistently.”

As far as pitching goes, Ringo, his standout sophomore, and Sickau, a junior, have grown into the team’s aces of the staff and been a pleasant surprise, according to Chaffee. Ringo has also turned into one of the team’s best hitters.

Chaffee is hoping to have four-year senior starter Brian Castonguay and sophomore catcher David Edie back for the playoffs. Edie has been out with a broken toe and Castonguay has missed time with an ankle ailment.

Before the playoffs get underway, Hamburg was slated to meet Frontier, trying to avenge an earlier season loss in a non-league game, and then plays a home-road double-header on Friday, May 17. That day, Chaffee said the team plans to host Orchard Park at 4 p.m. before jumping on a bus down to Gowanda for a 7:30 p.m. tilt to finish the regular season.

Also looking to challenge in Class A will be Lake Shore, who sat in first place in ECIC III before embarking on a four-game week starting May 14 at Pioneer. Needing two wins to at least share a second division title in three years, the Eagles, who are 9-1 in division play, were slated to play a double-header with Maryvale on May 15 and then travel to Depew the next day.

During a tough season, Frontier can hang its hat on nearly sweeping sectional champion Lancaster, which returned many pieces of the team that was so successful in 2012.

As part of a split in two ECIC Division I games, Frontier led by several runs before Lancaster scored four in the seventh inning to capture a 7-6 victory. On Wednesday, May 8, the Falcons held off Lancaster to earn a 7-2 win on the road. Christian Young threw a complete-game, five-hitter and Brandon Jewett led the offense with a homer for Frontier, which finished 3-9 in ECIC I.

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