Brett Marcellin did just enough on the mound and Portville (14-8) took advantage of six Westfield (17-2) errors Wednesday at Diethrick Park to claim the Section 6 Class C baseball title, 7-4.
"Any time you get to this level, there are no slouches," Portville coach Mike Matz said. "Everybody's good so when you do get a miscue, you do need to take advantage of it. And we did. To be fair, though, (Westfield) took advantage of some of ours. It won't turn out as the prettiest sectional finals game ever, but at the end of the day, I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty."
The No. 3 Wolverines, and starting pitcher Nolan Hunt, carried a 4-1 lead into the top of the sixth inning, but the No. 4 Panthers scored five runs on two hits while taking advantage of three errors to build a 6-4 lead that they never relinquished.
Westfield shortstop Brandon Johnston throws to first base during Wednesday’s Section 6 Class C baseball title game against Portville.
Photo by Lisa Monacelli
"We committed more errors in this game than we committed in our last seven or eight games combined," Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach said. "And it was the guys who had been solid as hell for us all year."
"That's what we've done," Matz added, noting come-from-behind wins in the playoffs against Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Allegany-Limestone. "Coming back is something that we're good at. I don't like it, for obvious reasons, but we're comfortable playing ahead or behind."
Justus Elliot led off the top of the sixth with a double while Marcellin walked to put two runners on. A single by Brandon Muniga plated Elliot, before Cameron Miller reached on a dropped fly ball in right to load the bases. Hunt struck out Alex Carr for the first out, but Troy Giberson chased home Marcellin on a fielder's choice to cut the Wolverines' lead to 4-3. Then, the wheels fell off the Westfield defense as a pair of errors led to three unearned runs and a 6-4 lead for the Panthers.
"I said to them exactly the very first thing I said to them the first day of practice," Kaltenbach said. "And I've repeated it almost every day, that in baseball, you have to learn to deal with failure. You're going to make mistakes and to me that's the key. You're going to make mistakes and you have to know how to react to those mistakes and not let them grow into another mistake. And we had not done that for the last 17 games and (Wednesday) we did. And it even affected our hitting and I hadn't seen that all year."
Hunt, who had helped the Wolverines beat long-time playoff nemesis Frewsburg last Wednesday, finished allowing six runs, four earned, on five hits while striking out six and walking four.
"Nolan came in this year as someone who could become very emotional," Kaltenbach said. "He a had tendency, when he was younger, to possibly lose his temper and this year he has been our rock. He won the MVP of our league (Tuesday) and it's well deserved.
"I loved every thing he gave me on that mound (Wednesday)," Kaltenbach continued. "He threw a lot of pitches. He threw 127 or 128 and that's way more than we've had to use him."
Marcellin, a soft-tossing lefty, was able to hold the high-powered Wolverines' offense in check Wednesday with good command, as he went the distance and allowed four runs on five hits while striking out five and walking three.
"He picked us up," Matz said of Marcellin. "We clearly didn't have our best fielding game and he got some easy pop-ups and strikeouts when we needed them. He's a very competitive kid. That's his nature and he showed it (Wednesday)."
"We hadn't really seen many lefties and that's one thing," Kaltenbach added. "The teams we play, there's not a lot of lefties. But he did just enough to keep us off balance.'
Westfield fell behind 1-0 after Zach Wood led off the top of the fourth with a single and scored on a hit-and-run single by Elliot. However, the Wolverines went to work in the bottom of the fourth and scored two runs on a single by Rob Burgess. Then, in the fifth, they built their lead to 4-1 as Cam Wright had an RBI single and scored on an error.
"I thought we were in a great spot," Kaltenbach said of his team's 4-1 lead. "But it was the same thing as it was against Frewsburg, we were up by seven or nine and we didn't think that one was over. I thought we were in a good spot. Nolan (Hunt) started getting his pitch count up and one thing led to another. I thought we could stop it and we couldn't. The water was coming up over the dam."
For Portville, it is its first sectional title of any kind for a boys sport since the football team won a title in 2003. For Westfield and Kaltenbach it is the sixth time they have finished second in the sectional final over the last 26 years.
"We had lost in the semis for the last five years in a row," Matz noted. "And now not to take just one step farther, but to actually bring (a sectional title) home ... It's our first male sectional title since Football in 2003, so it's been a while. Obviously this is something very special and hopefully our whole community will rally around and get behind."
"It's disappointing from the point of view that I've seen 15 guys start from teeny, tiny freshman and grow up into a great team," Kaltenbach said. "I feel very glad, and very proud for this season. This is hard to take, but we'll take it and move on. It's a character builder."
Aside from losing the game Wednesday, the Wolverines will also lose four seniors to graduation, but Kaltenbach knows he will have a lot coming back next season.
"I'm excited, but we are losing a lot," Kaltenbach said. "You take the four starters out and that's big for us. (Jon) Coe, Wright, (Travis) Rammelt and (Dan) Tofil, that's a big loss for us. We'll come back, we have a good young nucleus and we'll build off it."
NOTES: Wright finished with a pair of hits and an RBI in the loss ... Elliot was 3-for-3 with a double an RBI and a run scored for the Panthers ... Muniga had a pair of hits and scored two runs for Portville.