Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Sports

June 13, 2013

Lakemen mark 30-year anniversary

Wilson won the state Class C-D baseball title in June of 1983

WILSON —

It’s a small ball and a small world, really, when it comes to baseball.
Union-Sun & Journal Managing Editor John Hopkins grew up on the other side of the state, but he knows more about Wilson’s first and only New York state baseball championship than most Western New Yorkers.
That’s because 30 years ago this week, Hopkins, then just a tween growing up in Rome, witnessed the state Class C-D title game between the Lakemen and his eventual alma mater, Rome Catholic High School.
Led by pitchers Mark Woodard and Joe Okoniewski and sluggers that included George Cruickshank and Jim Voutour, head coach Pat Burke’s Lakemen defeated coach Bill Fleet’s Redwings, 5-2.
“I followed Rome Catholic teams closely because my brother Bill, eight years older than me, played hockey there,” Hopkins said. “I watched many of the 1983 baseball team’s games. The school and baseball field were only half a mile from home, so it was an easy bike ride for a 12-year-old.”
Woodard’s strong pitching and some defensive wizardry from Wilson catcher Paul Goodman led the Lakemen to their second straight state diamond title game in June of 1983. But this time, following a loss in 1982, it would be without their greatest hitter of all time, future Major League player Mike Twardoski, who Burke said was hitting nearly .700.
“I was extremely fortunate because Tim Schultz was the coach right before me and he already had the Wilson baseball program rolling. He was the architect,” said Burke, now the athletics director at Lockport High School and the 2013 state Administrator of the Year.
“I fell into a great situation. I had good kids who loved to play baseball — which was a sport at that time that the community embraced. The culture in the community was all about baseball — the year before being Twardoski’s senior year and Wilson was undefeated going to states.”

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