Photo Credits to Neil Stafford
It was warm, sunny and the perfect afternoon for baseball. Out at Niagara Falls High School the Section VI Class AA baseball championship was up for grabs. The No. 2 seed Clarence Red Devils took on the No. 4 seed Williamsville North, who had just knocked off top seeded Lancaster Legends the day before. The Red Devils took full advantage and scored eight runs in the bottom of the 1st inning to overpower the Spartans in route to a 17-2 win.
Senior pitcher Nick Ciraolo pitched a complete game picking up his 2nd playoff win in four days. He gave up two runs, 1 earned and three hits. Ciraolo also came up big at the plate going 3-for-3 with three RBI’s and a run scored. It was Ciraolo’s first at bat that triggered the Red Devils big 1st inning. “You have to treat them as if they are better than you” Ciraolo said “Getting up on them was key. Coach did a great job keeping us focused the past few days.”
The Red Devils first 7 batters all reached base before Bennett Cavaretta flied out to shallow center. The No. 9 hitter Nick Sykas followed up with a triple that cleared the bases. Jared Shalke knocked him home two batter later but was caught stealing, ending the inning.
All North could do was watch this game slip away. It was a cruel hand they were dealt from Mother Nature the past 48 hours. On Friday their game with Lancaster was called in the middle of the 2nd Inning and postponed until Saturday afternoon. The Spartans were trailing 4-0 when play continued but rallied for the upset winning 6-5 to set up another date with Clarence.
The Red Devils defeated Will North twice during the regular season so even without the rest, the team knew what was waiting for them. “They’re a great team, no doubt about it. We just didn’t have it today” Coach Jerry Scarcela said following the loss. “It would have been nice to have a practice or two before this but it is what it is. We make no excuses. We just didn’t get the job done.”
North used eight pitchers in 7 innings including a couple of JV call-up’s that came in and did a pretty good job considering. PJ Chiarmonte was one of them. He got his first taste of the post-season when he came into the game during the third inning with the bases loaded and just one out. Chiarmonte had a classic duel with Ciraolo who eventually came away with an RBI single, but Chiarmonte was able to get the next two batters out with a groundball and a pop-out.
Red Devil 3rd baseman Jack Putney turned in a fantastic performance on the corner making several key defensive plays. He also had two hits including a ground rule double in the 5th inning that scored two runs. “We were ready to go” Putney said after the game. “We knew they were going to be tired and worked it to our advantage.”
North wouldn’t hang the loss on low energy. “It was crazy (following the Lancaster win), but we knew we still had to play another great team no matter what” Spartan shortstop Joey Battaglia said. “It’ll sit with us for a little bit but we have to leave it behind. We’ll miss the seniors, they left us with a lot of confidence. We haven’t played in this game since 2004, we expect to be back next year.”
This is Clarence’s sixth Class AA title and although they have made it to the State finals twice, both trips ended in defeat. “This is a special group, capable of winning” Coach Dave Smith said after the win. “We caught a huge break, no question about it. But anytime you have a player like Surowiec, arguably one of the best players in WNY there is a chance of winning and our guys knew that heading in.”
Star of the Game
Ciraolo, only had 4 strikeouts and everyone will remember the home run he gave up but this was a great performance overall. He forced a lot of batters into hitting groundballs.
Play of the Game I
Mike O’Briens diving catch in right field to end the 2nd inning. With two runners on base Alex Wanat hit a shallow fly ball that could have triggered a nice rally for the Spartans had it hit the ground. Looking back at it had O’Brien not made the catch at least one run would have scored with the top of the batting order coming up for North.
Play of the Game II
Trailing 8-0 North’s Josh Surowiec took Ciraolo’s fastball for a 400’ ride over the centerfield wall. It was Surowiec’s 2nd homerun in as many days.
Next Saturday Clarence will meet Section V’s McQuaid after they knocked off Rush-Henrietta Saturday. The game will be played at Niagara Falls High School
For all the money Niagara Falls dumped into this beautiful sports complex you would think they would have pushed for a nicer scoreboard. One level above chalkboard. And they ran out of Gatorade at the refreshment stand. Get it together.