GOWANDA - This year's Section 6 Class D baseball finals matchup could not have featured two more different teams.
The No. 4 Brocton Bulldogs were playing in their first Section 6 final in recent memory while their counterparts, the No. 3 Pine Valley Panthers were seeking their fourth straight Class D crown.
That experience paid off for the Panthers with a 6-2 victory on Wednesday.
Leading the way for the Panthers was Tyler Swanson who tossed a complete game as he fanned 10 Brocton batters while allowing just five hits.
"Swanson pitched well on Friday against North Collins," Pine Valley coach Chris Buczek said. "In the back of my mind I was a little worried though. He threw 120 pitches on Friday, but he recovered well and came back with the mentality that he wasn't going to lose."
Swanson showed that dominant attitude early as he struck out the first three Bulldog batters he faced.
The Panthers, however plated a run in the bottom half of the first, as Winfred Nelson reached base on a fielder's choice and was moved around the bases by a Lucas Trombley single.
On a passed ball, Brocton catcher Dan Ferguson threw the ball to third base as Nelson was caught in between third and home plate. The throw squeaked past third base and trickled into the outfield which allowed Nelson to score.
"The first couple of runs that Pine Valley got off of us were unearned," Brocton coach Terry Presto said. "I think our guys were a little tight coming out having never been this far before. It took us a little bit to settle down."
In the top of the second, Brocton had one of its best early scoring chances as Ferguson led off with a single. With one out, Wade Austin and Tayler Appel walked to load the bases. However, the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize as they left the bases loaded.
Pine Valley bounced back to build on its lead in the third when Spencer Sticek led off by being hit by a pitch while Trombley reached on a fielder's choice that chased home Sticek while Trombley came around to score on a groundout later in the inning.
"Scot Laurie is a good pitcher with good command," Buczek said of the Bulldogs hurler. "We tried to feel him out early. It is kind of hard for us because we don't see many lefties."
The Bulldogs got a run back in the sixth inning when Latham Dunn came in to pinch hit and singled to get aboard with one out. Austin reached base with a walk and both runners were moved over when Appel grounded out. Dunn came around to score when another pinch hitter, Tony Miller, hit a groundball to Pine Valley's shortstop which he bobbled. Austin tried tie the game up for the Bulldogs on the play, but was gunned out on a close play at the plate.
"When we scored the second run to make it 3-2, I thought we had a good chance to get back into it," Presto said. "I was very proud of the way the guys came off the bench and put the bat on the ball."
The Panthers proved to be too much for Brocton as they poured on three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the game away.
"The last couple of years we have had trouble putting Brocton away," Buczek said. "We ended up winning, but it always came down to some late inning heroics, so it was nice to see us shut the door."
Laurie went five innings on the mound for the Bulldogs while striking out three in the process.
"I don't think Scot had his best game," Presto said of his senior pitcher. "I think he would be the first to admit it, but we also did not play well in the field. We haven't had an error in the last three games and we had nine in this game. Dan Ferguson did a great job throwing some people out from behind the plate and came up with two hits, as did Scot. It's been a pleasure coaching this group of seniors, but we do have a lot to look forward to with this young group of players."
As for the Panthers, their recent run of success hasn't been overlooked as Buczek recognized the significance of the sectional title.
"This is our fourth section title in a row and sixth in the last seven years," Buczek said. "A lot of people look at a state championship as the measuring stick for success, but it takes so much to win a section title. After losing two first-team all-state pitchers last season, I could not be more proud of what this team has accomplished."
The Far West Regional game is scheduled for Tuesday against a team and at a site to be determined.