Championship Saturday

JAMESTOWN – Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach has thought about winning a Sectional title for 28 years.

After losing in the Sectional championship game the last four years, he wondered when that time would come.

It finally arrived Saturday at Russell E. Diethrick Stadium as Kaltenbach and the Wolverines topped No. 2 North Collins, 5-0, in the Section 6 Class D high school baseball championship game.

So when Kaltenbach was asked how it felt to finally be Section champion, forgive him if it took him a moment to compose his thoughts.

“I have thought about it a lot,” he said of winning the title game. “I have downplayed it my whole life. This is our ninth time here. It’s been a monkey on our back and it feels great. I couldn’t have done it with a better group of guys. It makes the other ones even sweeter. It’s a continuation of success. It’s not like we were one and out. It puts it all together now. We needed this as a school and as a team.”

Kaltenbach can thank senior Nolan Hunt for being able to hoist the Sectional trophy as the lefty hurler put together a masterpiece, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Hunt was nearly untouchable.

Through six innings, Hunt needed just 61 pitches and faced one batter over the minimum. In all, he struck out 12, including seven in a row.

“He has matured so much I can’t even tell you,” Kaltenbach said. “He has wanted this game and wanted this position and he wants more. This is great, but this isn’t where we want to go.”

Hunt had struggled in the past at Diethrick Park as he entered the game with an 0-2 record in Sectional title games. However, it didn’t daunt him from wanting the ball for this game, and Kaltenbach certainly wasn’t going to tell him no.

“When we started Sectionals, we talked about how we were going to set the rotation,” Kaltenbach recalled. “He said, ‘Coach, I am pitching. I want the ball.’ And he was dominating – absolutely dominating. What can I say about him? He deserves what he is getting.”

The only North Collins batter to reach base in the first six innings was Jake Jasinski in the third inning as he was struck by a pitch.

In the seventh inning, North Collins’ Brandon Zielinski drew a one-out walk and Dylan Winter followed with a base hit up the middle to break up the no-hitter. However, Hunt got the next two batters to fly out to left field to end the game and begin the celebration.

Hunt’s performance certainly impressed North Collins coach Paul Kellner.

“He was phenomenal,” he said. “That was the toughest test we faced all year. His fastball was moving. He didn’t need his breaking ball. We had enough trouble with his fastball. We didn’t see anything like that velocity-wise all year … That’s a really good team and they have a shot to win the States. They can ride Nolan right to states.”

In the bottom of the second inning, the Wolverines put up a three spot as Joe Quagliana and Max Bates opened the frame with consecutive singles and both moved into scoring position on a wild pitch with no outs. Quagliana crossed home plate on a fielder’s choice by Greg Schroeder where everyone was safe, as the throw home was off the mark. Bates moved to third and Schroeder was safe at first on the play. Schroeder stole second base to once again put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Eric Fermier hit into a fielder’s choice as Bates was tagged out in a rundown between third base and home. On the play, Schroeder moved to third and Fermier promptly stole second base to put two runners at scoring position for the third time in the inning. Trevor North followed with a walk to load the bases. Chris Catalano had an RBI fielder’s choice to plate Schroeder. Fermier then scored on a double steal for a 3-0 advantage.

Westfield’s aggressive baserunning was a taste of North Collins’ own medicine.

“Give North Collins credit,” Kaltenbach continued. “(Kellner) likes to do different things base-running wise, and to be honest, we model our baserunning off of him. We played North Collins five years ago and I saw what they did. To advance guys on the walk and quick stealing – it gets us momentum and we like it.”

The top-seeded Wolverines added a run in the third inning when Hunt blasted a one-out triple to the wall in right field at the 342-foot mark. Bates followed with an RBI single. Quagliana, who had reached on a walk, tried scoring from second base, but was thrown out at the plate.

Westfield added another insurance run in the fifth inning as Tanner Dahl led off the frame with a stand-up triple and scored on a one-out single from Quagliana.

And Hunt did the rest.

The Eagles made some stellar defensive plays throughout the game. In the first inning, starting pitcher David Lynch picked off a Westfield baserunner at first to end the inning. And in the third inning, centerfielder Joey English chased down a deep drive from Tanner Dahl and made a Willy Mays-style over-the-shoulder basket catch for the first out.

“Our defense played pretty well,” Kellner said. “I wasn’t concerned about that. We made two throwing mistakes and it cost us three runs. Our defense kept us in the game, we just couldn’t hit Nolan.”

Quagliana, Westfield’s cleanup hitter, had a solid game at the plate. After going 1 for 4 in the semifinals, he went 2 for 2 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored to lead the offense.

Bates went 2 for 3 with an RBI and Eric Fermier went 2 for 3 with a double.

Westfield now advances to the Far West Regionals next Saturday.

“It’s been a great number of years,” Kaltenbach said. “This puts the icing on it for right now. We are going to celebrate it today and move on.”

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