Heading into their Saturday afternoon non-conference matchup against the Maryvale Flyers, Coach Jerry Gasz wasn’t sure if his Williamsville East Flames would be able to emerge victorious.
Despite coming into the game with an undefeated record, the Flames had played a doubleheader the night before against Hamburg, and while they won both games, the rubber match ended after 11 innings and close to midnight. Given the circumstances, it would have been understandable if the Flames’ roster had other things on their minds.
Not on Gasz’s watch.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming into today after last night’s events,” Gasz said. “I thought they might be flat because they left it all on the field. But when you have a team that refuses to lose, it’s almost second-nature to them to come back after you go down early.
“I’ve got great kids on my team, but I don’t like it when there’s any monkey business happening on our bench during a game. If I think your mind isn’t on the game, you’re not coming off the bench, so I kind of had to tell our team early in the game to wake up and get going. And it worked.”
After quickly falling behind on a two-run double by Paul Tripi, it seemed as if that – and Gasz’s leadership – was all the Flames needed to wake up. A sacrifice fly by Drew Elliott scored Joe Mack to make the score 2-1 after two innings, and then the rout began.
With the bases loaded in the third, Charles Mack drove home Justin O’Neill and Brian Comerford to take the lead. Soon afterwards, with the bases loaded again, Sam Pastore and Elliott both collected RBIs to make it 6-2 going into the fourth.
After Nolan Evans thwarted any chance of the Flyers getting back into the game with a shutdown inning – Evans allowed just three runs in five innings of work – the Flames’ potent offense went back to work. Comerford, Nick Kieffer and Dillon Lobdell each delivered RBIs to increase the Flames’ lead to 9-2, and then Lobdell came home on a sac fly to up the score to 10-2.
“This team can put up runs in bunches,” Gasz said. “The last few games, we’ve been averaging double-digits in the runs-scored department, so that’s definitely been a huge weapon for us this year.”
A wild pitch in the next inning allowed Carson Harper to reach home plate and get a third run on the board for the Flyers, but Pastore answered again with another RBI to tack on the Flames’ 11th run of the day. Tripi batted in two more runs for the Flyers in the seventh, but it was all they had left to muster as the Flames pulled away with the victory.
By winning their matchups the night before against Hamburg and improving to 14-0 on Saturday, the Flames clinched a division title and accomplished one of their goals. Yet more lofty ambitions were still ahead for the team, according to Gasz.
“We’ve got three goals, and one of them has been achieved,” Gasz said. “We also want a sectional title and we want to end the year as state champs. We’ve been there before, but if we get back to states, we don’t want to just be happy to be there.
“We’re going down there with a vengeance, because we should have won a few years ago but couldn’t come away with the title. It would be a wonderful experience to accomplish something like that.”