Williamsville South senior Austin Martin hasn’t pitched more than four innings in a game in the last two years.
Tuesday night he pitched all seven innings.
Martin led the No. 2 seeded Billies as they upset No. 1 seed Williamsville East Flames 2-1 in the Section VI Class A1 Baseball championship game.
Even after taking a line drive right to his leg at the end of the sixth inning, Martin told his coach and the trainer, that it “only hurt a little” and said flat out that he was staying in the game.
“The circumstances and the fact I got into a groove helped me go seven straight innings,” Martin said.
Martin gave up five hits and had a strikeout on the mound in the win.
Will South head coach Chris Murphy was beyond impressed with his pitcher.
“Martin just pitched the game of his life,” Murphy said. “He came to play today and he wasn’t going to let me take him out.”
The game was a defensive battle to start out as neither team was able to score in the first three innings.
Will South finally broke the drought as Adam Braniecki drove home Ryan Hann on a double in the fourth inning.
Billies’ right fielder Matt Chrzanowki made unbelievable play in the bottom of the fourth inning as he was going back for a fly ball in the outfield. Chrzanowki turned the wrong way, but still made the catch right at the wall. He then turned around and fired the ball to first base to catch the runner who didn’t tag and to make double play.
According to Murphy, that play signified what the Billies’ defense has been like this season.
“He’s one of the best outfielders in the league. He turned the wrong way but managed to make the catch,” Murphy said. “Our first baseman knew he had a big arm. We’ve played incredible defense all year.”
The Billies had back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in both the sixth and seventh.
Will East’s Dillon Lobdell led off the fifth with a single. The sophomore got to second base off a sacrifice bunt and then stole third. Senior Mike Steffan brought Lobdell in on a single to tie the game.
The Flames had men on first and second base, but Martin forced two fly outs in a row.
Johnny Genau led off the sixth inning with a hit for Will South. Hann came up at the next at bat and hit a single, allowing Genau to get to third.
Hann was confident enough to call it before it even happened.
“He called the hit-and-run that we ended up scoring on the past ball,” Murphy said. “Hann said ‘I’m feeling it coach’ and I told him ‘it’s on’. He showed great leadership.”
Hann went 1-3 with a walk and had three stolen bases in the win.
A wild pitch from Will East pitcher Ben Geiger bounced off the dirt over his catcher’s head allowing Genau to steal home for the game-winning run.
The Billies were three outs away from the upset as they took the field for the bottom of the seventh. With a team of 12 seniors, including eight that start, Murphy knew that his team didn’t need to hear anything from him.
“There wasn’t much to say. All you had to do was look into the other dugout and see that it’s East, this is your chance,” Murphy said. “They knew.”
After easily getting the first two Will East batters out, Martin had to face Flames’ captain Steffan, arguably one of the best in the area, in order to get the final out.
Martin thought it was fitting the final out came against Steffan.
“Mike Steffan has always had my number for a couple years now. Last year he hit a home run off me,” Martin said. “Today I had his number and that final out was a bit of revenge.”
On the third pitch of the at bat, Steffan connected and sent the ball to center field. Luckily for the Billies, Elijah Zells was there to make the catch.
Steffan will be playing Division I baseball at Canisius College next year.
Williamsville East head coach Jerry Gasz has been proud to coach Steffan.
“I thought if he got on then we have the Mack brothers coming up next so we would have had a shot at the end,” Gasz said. “I have the utmost respect for Steffan. He’s had a great career and he’s a big part of our team.”
The loss ends the redemption campaign for the Flames who fell in last year’s state final. Gasz gave to up to the Billies who laid it all on the field.
“We only lost three guys from last year’s team so we were on a mission this year,” Gasz said. “We didn’t get any breaks today, give (South) credit they played very well.”
For Will South, the championship win was a little extra special as they took down their rival, Will East, who had beaten the them in their five previous meetings.
“I kept telling my team before the game that it’s really hard to beat a team six times in a row,” Murphy said. “The guys bought into that.”
Being a senior Hann thought it was a story book ending.
“The fact that it was our crosstown-rival made it a perfect story,” Hann said.
The Billies will take on Olean who defeated Lew-Port in the A2 championship game on Tuesday night. The Class A championship game will be on Saturday.