Trojans Ousted

Fredonia Advances To Class B2 Final With 12-4 Win

Fredonia’s Owen Rush slides into second base where he is forced out by Southwestern shortstop Oscar Harris during Thursday’s Section VI Class B2 semifinal at Fredonia High School. P-J photo by Ashleigh Brown

FREDONIA — On Thursday evening, the Fredonia Hillbillies took their home field for one final time this season, against the division-rival Southwestern Trojans, with a spot in the Section VI Class B2 championship game at stake.

It isn’t much of a surprise what happened next.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before: Fredonia will play for a sectional title.

There are only so many ways to state the continued success the Fredonia athletic programs have had in recent years. Across all seasons and spanning multiple sports, the Fredonia Hillbillies have earned a shot at a blue patch to signify a Section VI championship.

Thursday, the visiting Trojans couldn’t keep this Fredonia squad from another opportunity to pair the blue patch with the Fredonia orange. The fourth-seeded Hillbillies jumped ahead early and never looked back in a 12-4 victory over No. 8 Southwestern.

“We were able to take advantage of our opportunities early,” said Fredonia head coach Tim Cowan. “It was a complete team effort. All 17 guys are pulling in the same direction. … The opportunity to play for a patch on Saturday is all you can ask for, and we just know we’re going to lay it all on the line.”

Fredonia scored a run in the first inning as Micah Davis crossed home plate on a wild pitch. After Fredonia pitcher Owen Rush put up zeroes in the first two innings, the Hillbillies added four runs in the second inning for a 5-0 lead. Four different batters in the Fredonia lineup drove in the four runs in the inning: Davis, Rush, Ashton Putney and Nathan Sercu.

“We just had a difficult time throwing strikes. One walk, two walks, a base hit can lead to a big inning for them,” said Southwestern head coach Jared Brown.

Southwestern plated its first run of the game in the third inning, as Jameson Walsh blasted an RBI double deep into the left-center field gap. However, Rush managed to escape any further damage and held the Fredonia lead at 5-1.

“It’s a big game, obviously,” Rush said. “We played them twice already and split with them. … Coming out not knowing what really to expect, I’m going in there playing hard — that mindset where I’m throwing until I can’t.”

After the third inning, the lead ballooned to 8-1, as Rush drilled a ball down the third-base line so hard it bounced over the third baseman and into left field for a two-run double. Putney had an RBI single for the eighth Fredonia run, with all three runs in the inning coming with two outs.

“Against teams like this, you can’t boot the ball around. You need to be able to make plays for your pitchers, and unfortunately, we were just not able to do that,” Brown said.

Despite a seven-run lead, Fredonia did not feel comfortable. The Hillbillies remembered how it felt to lose to Southwestern on their home field, as the Trojans handed Fredonia its most recent loss of the season, 4-2 on May 8.

“Any time you can beat Southwestern twice in a year, it’s exceptional,” Cowan admitted.

Fredonia withstood Southwestern’s best rally after falling behind 8-1 to earn its eighth straight win, even though the lead never felt insurmountable.

“Honestly, I was not comfortable at all. I hate being up by that much, just because I know that if I do get comfortable, it’s really easy to come back,” Rush said. “I’ve been on the other side of that where I’ve been down 10 runs and we’ve come back to win the game. I had to stay locked in, I had to stay ready to go.”

The Trojans scored two runs in the fourth inning, retired the Hillbillies in order in the bottom half of the inning, and appeared poised to score a run again in the fifth inning. But after a single to left field by Judd Harris, Pete Conley rounded third and charged toward home plate. Fredonia catcher Andrew Cowan received the throw, set himself in position to tag Conley, and was then barreled over by Conley at full speed. Andrew Cowan held the ball in the air to show home plate umpire Marv Cummings, who ejected Conley for excessive contact while not making an effort to slide or avoid the catcher — an automatic ejection by rule.

“There’s no issue, I kind of had a feeling he was going to get ejected. (Conley) was under the assumption that he didn’t have to try to get out of the way,” Brown said. “(Andrew Cowan) came over and we’ve talked about it. Everything is good.”

“It’s the heat of battle. I really don’t think there was any malicious intent, but the bottom line is, he lowered his shoulder when he had time to go around,” Coach Cowan added. “I think he just reacted. The correct call was made, but I don’t think it was nasty in any way.”

After the out at the plate, Fredonia carried an 8-3 lead to the bottom of the fifth inning. The Hillbillies failed to score in the fifth inning, but tacked on four more runs in the sixth, while Southwestern managed just one run in Rush’s final inning of work.

“Owen battled, he grinded — probably didn’t have his very best stuff, but he just really fought and challenged hitters. To their credit, they put a number of balls in play hard, but what we’ve preached all year is we can allow teams a couple hits, as long as we don’t put a bunch of guys in front of them with walks and hit batters,” Cowan said. “That’s really where he excelled today — he didn’t give many free bases … he really made them earn the ones they had.”

Putney came in to pitch the seventh inning and recorded the Trojans in order on just eight total pitches — three total to the first two batters, then a strikeout to end the game.

“Obviously, it’s a lot different playing with the lead. It never felt comfortable until the last out was made, but certainly we’d much rather be up than down, so we’ll take it,” Cowan said.

Southwestern’s season came to an end in a familiar spot, again falling just short of a championship game berth.

“It’s sad that it’s over. I feel bad for the seniors that we weren’t able to get it done,” Brown said. “The semifinal game has been a thorn in our side for about 6-7 years now. I thought we could maybe do it this year, but unfortunately, we didn’t. I’m going to miss seeing these guys every day.”

Fredonia looks ahead to the title game against No. 6 Royalton-Hartland, which defeated No. 7 Salamanca 6-2 on Thursday.

“We’re playing our best baseball at the right time of the year,” Cowan said. “What I told the boys after the game is, it really doesn’t matter who we play. It’s about our brand of baseball and what we bring to the table on Saturday. We’ll take on whoever is in front of us, give it our very best, and look forward to the opportunity.”

The championship game will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday at Grand Island High School.

“I’m ready to get that blue patch. I’m sick of these red patches,” Rush said. “It’s just such a fun moment to realize you’re playing for the section. You’re trying to be the No. 1 team in the section. It feels really good.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today