Westfield ready for Far West Regional

When the Westfield Wolverines and Webster Christian Warriors face off today in the high school baseball Class D Far West Regional at Dwyer Stadium in Batavia, it will be a battle of unknowns for several reasons.First, this will mark the first time in school history the Warriors have been to this game. It is also the first time in Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach’s 28-year tenure that his team will be playing in the Far West Regional after nine unsuccessful tries in the Section 6 championship game.

On top of that, Kaltenbach and Webster Christian coach Mike Sanger know practically nothing about each other’s team.

“Being 120 miles away, it’s hard to find anything out,” Sanger told the OBSERVER. “I know they have a lefty who is pretty hot.”

That lefty is Westfield ace Nolan Hunt and “hot” might be a bit of an understatement.

The Canisius-bound senior is 4-0 on the season with a .60 earned runs average. In 29 innings of work this season, he has struck out 51 and walked just three.

Pitching has been a strength of the Wolverines all season as Hunt, Greg Schroeder and Jonathan Wilson have combined to strike out 97 batters and walk 22.

The Wolverines plan on riding Hunt’s arm as far as it can take them, as the team’s goal from Day 1 was to make it to Binghamton and the state Final Four.

“I don’t mean to downplay winning the Section,” Kaltenbach said. “It’s cool we won, but let’s keep going. That’s been our mindset. The first day of practice, we said, ‘Forget the blue patch. Let’s aim big and go to states. Let’s not set our sights small.'”

And the Wolverines have done just that so far, following their 5-0 Section 6 Class D championship win over North Collins last weekend.

In that game, Hunt took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and the team got balanced hitting, including a 3-for-3 effort from cleanup hitter Joey Quagliana.

Westfield has received solid hitting throughout the lineup this year, led by Hunt’s two homers and 18 RBIs. Greg Schroeder, Jonathan Wilson and Quagliana have each driven in 12 runs on the season.

“Not one individual,” Kaltenbach said when asked who he will look to for an offensive spark. “Everyone has been hitting very good. We have been talking about bunting. We like to manufacture runs. I do know this, I think this whole thing, how far we go, could end on a bunt or not getting a bunt down. We have been trying to improve on our short game and just trying a lot of things. When you look at all the Sectional games, so many came down to not executing in the last inning.”

After dropping two games early in the season, Webster Christian is riding an 11-game win streak, and advanced with a 13-2 win over Genesee Valley in the Section 5 Class D crossover game. The team is a young team with three seniors in the starting lineup.

“Honestly, it’s been a total-team effort,” Sanger said. “I have been really blessed. They are doing well. I know we will have a tough game. To be honest, we have put a lot of time into our team and play the game we can play. Whatever happens, happens.”

The Warriors will be sending Johnny Parker to the mound.

“He is my top guy,” Sanger said, unwilling to share if his pitcher is a righty or a southpaw. “He is a good pitcher. I will leave it at that.”

Centerfielder Josh Whitmeyer is the Warriors’ leadoff batter and catcher Jerry Ludwig is the team’s cleanup hitter.

“Jerry Ludwig is good,” Sanger said. “I had to guilt him into playing this year. I am glad he played. It would have been a different year if we didn’t have him.”

If the score is close, Sanger feels that benefits his squad.

“I told my guys this is going to be a battle,” he said. “It could be a one-run game. We have to do whatever we can to scratch out the runs. Every game we have played that was close, we won. I feel confident. We are playing at such a high level. We just need to continue to play. Overall, our offense and defense has come through for us..”

Kaltenbach welcomes the challenge of a close game, as he has confidence in his team as well.

“We can handle a close game,” Kaltenbach said. “I have heard they are fundamentally sound and do unorthodox things like bunt with two strikes and two outs. At 16-3, anyone at this level, is going to be good.”

The game will be played at Dwyer Stadium at 4:30 p.m. The stadium is a similar structure to that of Russell E. Diethrick Park. Though Westfield just played at a similar stadium, Kaltenbach says it does not matter where his team plays.

“I don’t think we will be overwhelmed,” he said. “We play at unbelievable fields in Myrtle Beach (at the beginning of the year) and we play on high school fields that rival college fields. We play at St. Bonaventure and JCC.

“We look at it as another game,” Kaltenbach concluded. “All we have to do is remove the title of the game. It’s just a game. Forget it. Remove that. I understand it’s hard to do. I would lie if I said they aren’t excited about going to another game. We are seven innings away from going to Binghamton.”

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