Mark Petersen, the athletic director at Cassadga Valley Central School, had a scheduling meeting on Thursday morning in Salamanca, so he wasn't at the Sinclairville campus until early afternoon.
Once he returned to the building, however, he ran into Matt Hallowell, Devon Parsons and Dakota Morano, who are members of the Cougars' baseball team.
The greeting was the same each time.
Coach JOE MISTRETTA and his Cassadaga valley cougars
P-J PHOTO BY ROB TUCKER
''There were high-fives all over the place,'' Petersen said. ''It was pretty cool.''
This season, in fact, has been ''pretty cool'' for the entire squad, which also includes Tim Bender, Ryan Berg, Jordan Crabtree, Andy Ellis, Tyson Gugino, Matt Heath, Kenny Oakes, Nick Peterson, Tage Reuther and Jaquan Watts. Together, the Cougars, who are coached by Joe Mistretta, claimed a share of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 2 regular-season title by knocking off perennial-power and defending Section 6 Class C champion Frewsburg, 9-5, on Wednesday.
The Cougars finished 12-6 overall and their 10-2 division mark tied them with Portville for the league crown, a surprising development for a team that Mistretta said ''kind of overachieved a little bit.''
''We didn't have any big, strong kids or any power,'' he said. ''We just had to manufacture runs and hope we got good pitching, which we did, and good defense.''
Noted Petersen: ''This was, by far, not a good hitting team, but they found a way to win, and that's what good teams do. ... That comes right from the top.''
Somewhere, Thomas Mistretta is smiling.
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Joe Mistretta grew up on East James Street in Falconer, a community that has produced outstanding athletes in all sports for decades. While he's humble to a fault - ''It's not about me,'' he insists - it's clear that the lessons he learned from his late father, Tom, helped shape him into one of the finest athletes Chautauqua County has ever produced.
''We play the game the way I was taught and I manage that way,'' said Mistretta, a 2009 Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame inductee. ''It was one game for a league championship, so we had to play an aggressive game. We couldn't sit back, because we didn't have kids who could hit the ball over the fence. That's the way we've played since I've been there. Everything went right for us.''
That, it did.
The Cougars showed patience at the plate (10 walks); successfully executed two out of three suicide squeeze bunt attempts; Bender, Heath and Ellis all connected for two hits; and Hallowell tossed a complete game. It was the kind of effort that has symbolized their entire spring, a collective effort that finally pushed Cassadaga Valley ''over the hump,'' Mistretta said.
A coach for 30 years, including the last 10 seasons with the Cougars, Mistretta said he has had opportunities to go other places, but has chosen to stay at the central Chautauqua County school.
''Ever since I've been there, they've treated me great,'' said Mistretta, who works in the shipping department at Inscape New York in Falconer. '' ... At this point in my life, this means just as much or more than a state championship because of the respect they've shown me.
''Every kid who has played for me has given me everything they've had. It doesn't matter where you coach; the only thing you can ask is that kids respect you and play their hearts out.''
This group is taking that approach.
Reuther and Ellis share the catching duties; Bender, Oakes, Heath, Watt and Gugino man the infield - their positions can vary depending on who is pitching - and Watt, Parsons, Morano and Parsons have played well in the outfield. Hallowell and Oakes have been strong on the hill.
Mistretta has also been pleased with the role his bench players - Berg and Crabtree - have performed, especially as pinch-runners in a system that requires strong base-running skills.
''I told the kids that the players play and the coaches coach,'' Mistretta said. ''They deserve it. I've been coaching 30 years and I've never won a game, I've never had one hit or made one play in the field. They deserve all the credit.''
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Petersen is a lifelong Falconer resident and knows the role that Tom Mistretta, who passed away in September 2010 at 87, played in developing ballplayers in the village, including his son.
''It was old-school baseball,'' Petersen said. ''(Tom) did things the right way.''
Mistretta obviously took mental notes and, decades later, uses those lessons when coaching the Cougars, including on Wednesday against Frewsburg.
''It was the strangest thing that happened'' Mistretta recalled. ''All day at work, my dad was in my head, and he kept saying, 'Be aggressive, you can do it. That's your game.'
''It was almost like everything he always taught me, he was telling me. That was in my head all day. When I got to the game, I kept thinking, 'We can't hold back, we have to hit and run and take the extra base.' It was a day that was meant to be. Everything worked out the way I envisioned. We made the best of it.''
After the bus returned the team to CVCS, Mistretta hopped in his car and drove home. As he replayed the events of the division-clinching victory in his mind, he couldn't help but recall the ''conversation'' he'd had with his father earlier in the day.
''I just kind of said, 'We did it,''' Mistretta said. ''We did it our way.''