Putney Pitches Fredonia To Shutout Win Over Olean In D1

Fredonia pitcher Ashton Putney delivers a pitch during a CCAA Division 1 baseball game against the Olean Huskies at Fredonia High School on Wednesday. Putney threw a shutout to earn the win. P-J photo by Braden Carmen

FREDONIA — The Fredonia Hillbillies have an ace. His name is Ashton Putney.

Olean won’t forget it anytime soon.

After beginning the game with five perfect innings, Putney finished off a shutout of the Olean Huskies on Wednesday to put some distance between the Hillbillies and the rest of CCAA Division 1 with an 8-0 victory at Fredonia High School.

“It’s nice when you can trust everyone behind you. If I do make a bad pitch and they do hit it hard anywhere, I trust everyone behind me to make a play,” Putney said. “I’m just trying to do my job out there, throwing strikes and not walking anyone.”

That certainly was the case, as Putney only allowed one walk compared to 11 strikeouts. He allowed only four singles, all in the final two innings of play.

Putney was dominant from the start of the game, opening the contest with three straight strikeouts. Fredonia (9-2, 6-1) also went down in order in the first inning, and Olean (4-5, 4-2) did the same in the second inning, as well.

“I thought (Putney) had great command of the fastball, and his offspeed stuff was noticeably sharper than his last outing,” Fredonia manager Tim Cowan said. “… He threw four pitches for strikes today. That certainly helps stretch the strike zone a little bit, keeps hitters off balance, and you saw the results.”

In the bottom of the second inning, the Hillbillies scratched across a pair of runs. Colin Luce beat out a grounder to shortstop after a poor throw, then a deep drive to left-center field off the bat of Nathan Sercu put runners on second and third with no one out.

Colin Crowell pushed the first run of the game across the plate on a grounder to second base, then Andrew Cowan drove the ball up the middle for a base hit to score the second run of the game.

“What really broke the game open for us, I felt, was Colin Crowell having a really solid at bat. He got down two strikes, with guys on second and third, and was able to hit a hard ground ball to second. That might not seem like a big deal, but that gets the first run home, gets another guy to third, puts more pressure on the pitcher, and on the next one, Andrew (Cowan) hit a single,” Tim Cowan said.

The Hillbillies doubled their lead in the third inning with the same two batters that scored the first two runs of the game driving in the next two runs. Luce placed a double softly down the right field line to score a run, then Sercu hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the fourth run of the game. Putney later helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly in the next inning to put Fredonia ahead 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning.

While the pressure for Fredonia to score lessened with each inning, a different type of pressure began to mount.

Putney continued to set Olean down in order each inning. Through four frames, he had seven strikeouts, without a hard hit ball yet to be put in play. The fifth inning began with a groundout, then a strikeout looking, before a deep drive to right-center field was caught to end the inning. Five innings down, six outs to go, Putney was still perfect.

Putney admitted his fastball “was feeling really good” on Wednesday, as he made quick work of a lineup that less than a week prior posted 21 runs in a game against Dunkirk. He credited Olean’s offense after the game and noted relationships he has with several players on their roster, which made the shutout even more special for Fredonia’s emerging star on the hill.

Tim Cowan and Putney both acknowledged that the perfect game was on their minds as the game progressed, but that it did not impact the way Putney went after Olean’s hitters. “We don’t attack hitters any differently. If the situation called for offspeed, we would throw offspeed. If you start calling the game for a perfect game or no-hitter, you start to get in trouble,” Cowan said.

While the perfect game was still intact, Putney later admitted, “Obviously it’s in the back of your mind, but I’m just trying to do my job.”

In the top of the sixth inning, Olean finally managed a hit on a sharp ground ball past a diving second baseman. A sacrifice bunt followed, then a strikeout swinging on an offspeed pitch. Putney then issued his only walk of the game to put runners on first and second with two outs, but he made a play himself on a pop up in foul territory to end the inning.

The Hillbillies put to rest any doubt in the final result with three more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, including run-scoring singles from Putney, Matt Cowan, and Luce.

“I thought the adjustments that our whole lineup made throughout the game proved to be the difference,” Tim Cowan said. “… For us to put up the runs we did, I think speaks to how the whole lineup is hitting right now.”

Putney went back out for the seventh inning, and while he had an 8-0 lead and the perfect game was no more, he felt as much pressure as ever in the inning. An infield single to shortstop and a blooper to shallow left field put two runners on with no one out. He responded with his tenth strikeout of the game, but then a sharply hit line drive to right field loaded the bases with one out.

Putney’s shutout was suddenly in jeopardy — a situation that had not been seen often this season, considering Putney had not allowed a run in any of the league games he pitched leading up to Wednesday’s game. But with the shutout at risk, Putney rose to the occasion again.

Putney notched his 11th strikeout of the game for the second out of the inning. Then, the next batter worked the count full, which set up one final pitch to decide whether the shutout would stand. The pitch was lined sharply up the middle, but on one hop, Putney spun his glove hand around from his follow through to knock the ball down. At first, he didn’t realize he knocked it down, but as soon as he noticed the ball behind him, he picked it up and fired a strike to first base to nab the runner by a step.

“It felt really good. I honestly did not know where the ball was until someone yelled it was right next to me,” Putney said.

The play solidified Putney’s fourth victory without allowing a run in league play this season, but his first seven-inning complete game shutout.

“He’s been incredibly sharp,” Tim Cowan said. “… He’s not focused on numbers like that over the course of the year. At the end of the year, you look back and see where things play out.”

Fredonia plays Olean again on Friday, and will do so with every pitcher on the team available to throw besides Putney. Wednesday’s victory came a night after Fredonia beat defending state champion Depew, 11-5, and the Hillbillies have hopes of following a similar path moving forward.

“It feels good. We’re just rolling, taking it one game at a time, focusing on the goal of getting a good seed in playoffs, and go from there,” Putney said.

Performances like Wednesday’s make those aspirations seem realistic.

Tim Cowan said, “It’s always nice to start strong, but everybody remembers how you finish. We will continue to work to make sure we finish strong.”


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