Wroblewski, Sobieraski win it on the hill; Weaver with the bat
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Just win, baby.
It might not have been the prettiest Niagara Frontier League baseball win on record, nor the most convincing, but head coach Steve Styrzo’s Lockport Lions have written the book on strong pitching and timely hitting throughout this past season.
LHS senior Alex Weaver’s bases-clearing double broke open a 3-3 tie against visiting Kenmore East on Wednesday, producing just enough runs for junior pitchers Brad Wroblewski and Charlie Sobieraski in a 6-4 victory as the Lions (12-2 NFL) closed their league season by claiming their first NFL championship since 2005 and their first solo title in 12 years.
“It’s great. Our kids played hard,” Styrzo said on a sunny, warm, but windy day at Outwater Park. “This championship is a testament to all the outstanding student-athletes we have in Lockport.”
With the victory, the Lions are hoping to get a No. 2 seed at this Saturday’s scheduling meeting for the upcoming Section VI playoffs. That means the Lions would earn a first-round bye and will likely host a home playoff game at 5 p.m. next Wednesday at Outwater.
Lockport’s last NFL title was eight years ago, but they shared it with Niagara-Wheatfield. The year before that they shared the league title with Niagara Falls. Lockport’s last two solo titles in baseball were in 2001 and their first ever in 1997.
“I guess it shows that hard work pays off,” said Sobieraski, one of the most consistent hitters in the NFL this season. “We’ve had big hits from our three, four and five batters throughout the season and strong pitching from Brad, Casey Domski and Noah VanDenBosch all year.”
Early on, the southpaw starting pitcher Wroblewski (9 strikeouts, 4 hits) was a beast, striking out two batters per inning over the first four frames, while scattering a couple of singles.
“My curve ball got in the zone and that was a big help,” Wroblewski said. “Also, my fastball was moving and I was keeping the ball down. Plus, we were making all the plays defensively.”
With Wroblewski in complete control, Lockport plated two runs in the first and another in the third to take what looked like a commanding 3-0 lead.
Senior Will Diebel opened the bottom of the first with a walk, then stole second. After Sobieraski walked, the junior VanDenBosch stroked a line drive double down the left field line to plate Diebel, moving Sobieraski to third. A sacrifice fly to deep center by Wroblewski plated Sobieraski and the Lions led 2-0.
Two innings later, Sobieraski (1-for-1, two walks, two runs scored) walked and stole second, moved to third on a ground out, then scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0 Lions.
Wroblewski struggled on the mound in the fourth, but dug deep to work his way out of it. A single by shortstop Luke Simmons and walks to first baseman Tyler Gibson and starting pitcher Devon Taggert gave Ken East the bases loaded and just one out.
“I think I was getting a little tired and let the mound get to my head a little,” Wroblewski said, but to his credit, the hard-throwing left hander struck out the next batter, then got the batter after that to fly out harmlessly to himself as the blue and gold maintained their 3-0 lead.
The Lions had two runners aboard and no outs in their half of the fourth, but a double play and a strikeout ended that threat in a hurry, setting the stage for a see-saw, deciding fifth.
Ken East lead-off designated hitter Connor McMahon (2-for-3, walk, 2 runs scored) and third baseman Robby McNamarra got things started with singles. A double steal moved them to second and third, then a wild pitch ball four to Simmons (2-for-3) plated McMahon to cut the LHS lead to 3-1 with Bulldog runners on first and third.
Styrzo made a pitching change after that, bringing in the right-hander Sobieraski (2 2/3 innings, 1 strikeout, 1 walk). A wild pitch plated McNamarra and Simmons came home on a ground out to second, before Sobieraski fanned left fielder Zach Glaspy with the final out of the frame.
Suddenly it was 3-3, but it didn’t last long.
Sophomore shortstop Tyler Fraas walked and Sobieraski smacked an infield single to put LHS runners on first and second with no outs in their half of the fifth. VanDenBosch sacrificed the runners to second and third, then after Wroblewski walked to load the bases, Weaver cleared the bases with a rocket blast to the left-centerfield fence.
“It was a first-pitch fastball down the middle and I just hopped on it,” said Weaver, who’s coming off a solid 4-for-4 day at the plate the other day. Fraas, Sobieraski and Wroblewski scored, as Weaver was thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit into a triple, but LHS finished the frame with a 6-3 lead.
Ken East (3-11 NFL) got a runner aboard in the top of the sixth but unsung Lions junior catcher Dan Bronson, who had a huge day defensively behind the plate, threw out second baseman Mitchell Racz trying to steal second then Lockport sophomore Tyler Goodridge made a strong throw from third on a grounder by Blackburn to get out of the sixth unscathed.
The Lions went down 1-2-3 in their half of the sixth, setting the stage for Ken East’s final at-bat. McMahon walked to open the inning, then stole second, moved to third on a ground out, then scored on an infield throwing error to make it 6-4. Another LHS infield error and an infield single put Bulldog runners on first and second with one out, but Weaver closed the show with a great catch on a line drive to first, then doubled up the runner by touching first to end the game.
“It was hot off the bat and I just took a couple steps to my left and snagged it, then doubled up on the runner,” Weaver said.
GAME NOTES: Junior right fielder Bryce Perry (1-for-2) also had a solid base hit for the Lions ... The umpires for the game were two of Western New York’s finest in Mike Stover and Charlie Webb. Stover, president of the Lockport Umpires Association, said his group is still seeking new umpires to join for the 2013 summer season. For more information, call 880-6510.
Medina 8, Wilson 7
MEDINA — At Vets Park, Wilson took a 5-4 lead by scoring three times in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by Taylor Thilk, a fielder’s choice and an error.
The Lakemen (4-10 N-O) added two runs in the sixth to cut the Mustangs’ deficit to 8-7 on an RBI double by Derek Martin.
Starpoint 6, Nichols 0
PENDLETON — Andrew Murchison and Sean Brown combined to pitch a three-hitter as the Spartans blanked Nichols in a non-league game on Wednesday.
Murchison threw the first four innings for the Spartans (14-4). He gave up just two hits and walked one batter before the team turned to Brown, a sophomore, to start the fifth. He had a four-pitch fifth inning and struck out three of the next six batters, giving up just one hit.
“Not bad for a tenth-grader,” Starpoint skipper Tim Racey said.
At the plate, Austin Owens went 1 for 3 with a double, which came in the second inning and drove in three runs. Brett Guay and Zach Monell each had two hits, a run and a RBI in support.
“Every hit we got was earned,” he said. “We had to play small ball and steal some bases. But the big thing was the bottom of my order came through.”