by Bill Hammond
April 1, 2023
The Night Dunkirk Posted Epic Victory
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article first saw the light of day on June 15, 1978, the day after the Dunkirk High School baseball team posted a 4-1 16-inning victory over Williamsville North in the Section VI Class BB championship game. With this spring’s high school season just beginning, it was deemed appropriate to run it again.
NIAGARA FALLS — What may very well be remembered as the greatest pitching duel in Section VI baseball playoff history was staged in Niagara Falls at Hyde Park Stadium Wednesday night.
A pair of junior left-handed pitchers each took the mound 16 times in the classic 4-hour, 10-minute struggle between the Dunkirk High Marauders and the Williamsville North Spartans.
The two, Dunkirk’s Frank Jagoda and Williamsville North’s Paul Webb, all but disregarded their curveballs after the first few innings in the 40-degree weather and pumped fastball after fastball past opposition batters.
At stake was the Section VI Class BB baseball championship, and in the 16th inning, the marathon struggle was finally decided on a two-out single into left field by Dunkirk center-fielder Rob Gilray. The clutch base hit scored Jagoda from second base and gave Coach Al Stuhlmiller’s Marauders their third successive sectional championship.
In recording his third straight playoff victory this season, Jagoda pitched magnificently. The tireless Marauder rang up 14 strikeouts to break Dunkirk’s single-season total of 103 set a year ago by Mark Balzer, and improved his two-year playoff record to a perfect 5-0.
Jagoda has now allowed only one earned run in 43.2 innings of postseason play. He was one out away from completing the game when he “felt something snap” in his left forearm while delivering a pitch to Spartan Jim Schnable, which was popped up to second base for the 16th innings’ second out.
After a few warmup pitches, Jagoda threw one last fastball, typically for a swinging strike, before the injury intensified and he had to leave the game. After receiving a well-deserved ovation from the less than 100 fans in attendance, Jagoda was replaced on the mound by senior Brian Benamati, who recorded the final out on a routine groundout to third baseman Dave Pulvino.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Stuhlmiller after winning his 10th Section VI title in 23 years of coaching. “I can’t say enough about this team. Frank was just incredible tonight, and it was a fantastic job by every guy on the team. Everybody hustled and we just never gave up.”
Getting back to Jagoda, Stuhlmiller said, “Frank is some kind of competitor. He just seemed to get tougher as the game went on.”
The final line on Jagoda was 14 strikeouts, seven hits and three walks (one intentional) in 15.2 innings. Counterpart Webb struck out 19 Marauders, walked 11 (three intentionally), and surrendered 11 hits.
Three of those went to DHS leadoff man Jeff Kubera, whose infield single to shortstop with two outs in the ninth inning gave him 41 for the season. The total was a new DHS record, eclipsing by one the 40-hit season posted by Bill Crosoll just a year ago.
Oddly enough, Coach Joe Guercio’s host Spartans scored their only run of the game before a single out was made. Leadoff batter and catcher Doug Olsson picked on Jagoda’s two-strike curveball and sent it over left-fielder Chris Ley’s head for a double.
Next better Fred Walentynowicz sacrificed, and Jagoda threw wildly to first base for an error. Olsson moved to third on the play and then scored when Steve Kolstad punched a fastball into right field for an RBI single. Catcher Frank Fekete gunned down Kolstad at second base on a steal attempt, and Jagoda fanned Webb to end the inning.
The Spartans weren’t to come close to scoring again for seven innings. The Marauders were a different story, leaving men on base in every inning but the second before finally tying the game at 1-1 in the sixth.
The equalizer scored when Pulvino slammed the first pitch he saw over the center-fielder’s head for a double. The blast scored Ley, who had earned life on a dropped throw at first base, and then had been sacrificed to second by first baseman Marty Bamonto.
Jagoda had Webb matched zeroes for the next nine innings. Dunkirk had the first threat, stranding Bamonto at third after the junior slugged a two-out triple to right field.
The Spartans loaded the bases in the 10th, when they picked up their fourth base hit, and first since the third inning. Scott Woods bunted over Jagoda’s head for a single after an error to put men on first and second. A hit batsman loaded the sacks, but Jagoda picked off a left-side groundball and threw out the final runner at first by a step.
Gilray’s long, two-out drive to center field ended a DHS scoring opportunity in the 10th, and Webb fanned the side in the 11th after Pat Kern’s single hit third base. He was left at third base after a wild pitch and a passed ball.
Dunkirk’s biggest threat came in the 13th when it loaded the bases with one out on Gilray’s single, an error on Kern’s sacrifice bunt, and an intentional walk to Kubera. Stuhlmiller called for the squeeze bunt with Fekete at bat, but the ball was popped up to shortstop for an easy double play.
A two-on, two-out Spartans’ uprising was silenced in the 13th with a strikeout, and the Marauders were kept off the scoreboard in the 14th despite two baserunners.
In the fatal 16th, Jagoda started things with a walk. Ley’s hard grounder to short was ruled an error, and after two were out, Gilray stroked a Webb fastball past third baseman Terry Greiner, and the throw to the plate from left-fielder Kolstad was wide to the right and Jagoda scored standing up.
An intentional walk to Kern loaded the bases and designated hitter Steve Treni’s grounder to second base was booted, allowing the game’s final two runs to score.
Jagoda recorded the first two outs in the 16th on flyouts before hurting his arm, and turning over the hill to Benamati for the final out.
DUGOUT CHATTER: The win was Dunkirk’s third straight and fourth in five years in the Class BB division. … “Everybody on this team stayed together,” said Stuhlmiller of his 18-8 club. “We won nine straight games early in the year, and then lost four straight. But everybody just held together and played tough. They came back like the true champs they are.” … Said Jagoda of the new strikeout mark, “I can’t believe this. Before the game, they were kidding me about pitching two games tonight (in reference to the canceled matchup nightcap with Fredonia) to get the record. … I got the record, but it turns out I pitched two and a half games.” … “It was easily the longest game Dunkirk’s played since I’ve been coaching here (1956),” Stuhlmiller commented. … Jagoda’s nightly ritual was to come off the front of the mound to take the return throw from catcher Fekete, tug at his hat three times, and to wave his arm at Fekete before winding up.