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St. Francis pair help West Seneca Legion to WNY title

Paul Wujek has provided a steady glove at shortstop, along with an opportunistic bat at the plate for District 8 champion West Seneca. Photo by Michael Petro
It’s already been quite a summer of baseball for a pair of St. Francis High School graduates, and it’s not over yet.

Paul Wujek of the Class of 2012 and recent graduate Mike Prentice have helped the West Seneca Legion Post 735 baseball team to a Western New York District 8 title and a shot at putting Buffalo back on the map in the state tournament.

The 19-and-under team with its home base in West Seneca completed a two-game sweep in the best-of-three championship series Saturday (July 27) with an 8-7 extra-inning win over McKeever at Orchard Park High School.

The summer season had already reunited two friends after Wujek went off to Hilbert College and Prentice finished off his senior season at St. Francis. Now, this title gives both of them the opportunity to together play in a tournament that a Buffalo team hasn’t won since 1984.

“It was good to play with Paul after not playing with him this year. It’s cool to be able to get back together for the summer,” said Prentice, who’s been behind the plate catching for the team.

“Now that we have the St. Francis guys back together it’s been fun,” added Wujek, who started at shortstop after enjoying a solid freshman season playing with Hilbert.

West Seneca now moves on to the double-elimination, eight-team tournament in Utica and played its first game on Wednesday (July 31) morning. A title there would provide an opportunity to play in the regionals the following week in NJ.

“We want to be the team from Western New York to finally make it (to regionals),” Prentice said. “It’s been a while.”

Post 735 was actually just one win away from earning the state title in 2010 but fell in consecutive games to Saratoga to end the tournament. A year later, the team took third at states. Last summer, West Seneca fell in the District 8 semifinals.

“It does (inspire) us,” Post 735 coach Peter Trzybinski said. “We have a third and second place in our showing there, so maybe this year, we can get a first.”

The team moved on after a 17-10 win over McKeever in a slugfest Friday (July 26) and then got solid relief pitching from Matt Keating (Iroquois) and a RBI-double from Ian Allen (East Aurora) in the 11th for the series sweep.

“Typically we live and die by our pitching,” Trzybinski said. “Yesterday wasn’t evident of that, but today, our guys made pitches when we needed to and fought until the last out. That’s how we play.”

While the team may rely heavily on the arms of Allen, Keating and Zach Trumpler, the bats got it going in the playoffs. Wujek helped set the table for many of West Seneca’s offensive spurts, while Prentice came through with a game-winning hit earlier in the playoffs in a 2-1 win over Jurek.

“Obviously, the bats have been big too,” Wujek said. “We had 20 hits yesterday and we hit well again today. Timely hitting has been key.”

Trzybinski noted that leadership cannot be underestimated as well in West Seneca’s run and Wujek and Prentice, both returning players from last summer, are two that have been helpful in that regard.

Prentice is more vocal, which comes more natural as a catcher, while Wujek speaks when needed but does more of leading by example, according to Trzybinski.

“They’re two of the leaders on this team; two of the older guys,” he said. “They’ve been threw it and help keep our guys going when things get rough. We never quit and I can say it’s because of those two.”

Prentice said the group has worked well together, even though it combines players from a variety of different communities and their high schools and colleges.

“It’s been great — just a bunch of guys from different schools getting together and playing some good baseball, as of now,” Prentice said. “We were able to beat what we did last year and get to states.”

The continuation of that chemistry could lead to this well-rounded group taking the next step.

“We want to keep everything going, just play ball,” Wujek said. “We’re playing pretty well...If you make an error, we know just to move on and somebody will pick you up.”

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