Wolves heading to finals again

WESTFIELD – Westfield baseball coach Doug Kaltenbach admitted he was not too comfortable before Thursday’s Section VI Class D semifinal baseball game against Franklinville on Thursday.

His starting pitcher, Jonathan Wilson, quickly put his coach to ease as he pitched the Wolverines to a 5-1 victory Thursday as Westfield now makes its seventh straight appearance into the Sectional championship game.

“I was worried about this game,” Kaltenbach said. “All day long I said I was worried. They gave Frewsburg everything they could handle and they beat North Collins. I was worried. I give them all the credit in the world. It’s a big win for us.”

Wilson held the Panthers in check for most of the day, as he allowed just six hits – two of which came in the final inning. He finished with 10 strikeouts and one walk. Through six innings, only one of Franklinville’s hits left the infield.

“He was tough,” Franklinville coach Mark Blecha said. “He was just as tough with a bat in his hand as the ball in his hand. He had great command on the mound. He kept our kids off balance. We struggled to hit a few times this year. He was pretty dominant. He is one of the toughest we faced all year. I think our league is pretty darn good. Wilson is right up there. He is in the top five for sure.”

The Wolverines took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. After Franklinville recorded the first two outs, No. 6 hitter Joey Quagliana doubled. Chris Catalano and Taylor Irwin followed with RBI singles for the 2-0 advantage.

“We have been talking a lot about swinging and knowing where you are at in the pitch count and to stay on top of the ball,” Kaltenbach said. “The last few games, guys have been trying to hit the ball too hard. It was good to see that. One through nine, we have tough outs all the way through. We have guys who are small, and they can pound the ball.”

The Panthers responded in the third inning in unconventional fashion. Isaac Kopp, Will Bays and Dawson Bialecki each loaded the bases with bunt singles. There, Wilson got Jake Peters to strike out. However, the ball rolled to the backstop, allowing Kopp to score, cutting the deficit, 2-1.

“The third baseman was way back,” Blecha said. “In the first inning, we hoped our hitters would notice that. We told our first batter (of the second inning) if it’s there, take it. He dropped it down beautifully, and it got contagious. The third baseman never moved until the third bunt. If we can draw him in, it gives us a better hole to hit to, but we couldn’t get any hits.”

Westfield regained the two-run lead in the third inning as Wilson singled and scored from second on Max Bates’ RBI single.

“Big, that was big,” Kaltenbach said of responding with a run. “That was a killer. You could feel it a bit. We have been struggling the last couple games and we needed to have something like that. They came back and we needed to come back.”

The Wolverines added a run in the fifth inning thanks to an RBI double from freshman Brock Schuster, and another run in the sixth as Trevor North scored thanks to an RBI sacrifice fly from Eric Fermier.

“Schuster has been great this year,” Kaltenbach raved. “He comes up play after play, offensively and defensively. He started the season batting No. 9 and is now No. 5, and he can go higher. As a freshman, he is tough.”

With the win, Westfield will be playing at Russell E. Diethrick Park in Jamestown on Saturday at 12 p.m. for a chance at its second straight Sectional title.

“That’s pretty amazing,” Kaltenbach said. “Five of them were in Class C. To go seven years in a row, (junior) Max Bates was in elementary school the last time we didn’t go. We feel at home there.”

Pitching for Westfield on Saturday will be Greg Schroeder, who was a candidate to start Thursday.

“We thought about it and thought about going (with Schroeder Thursday),” Kaltenbach said. “It’s just a gut feeling. Greg has earned the spot to go to the stadium and win a Sectional title for us. He has a 0.30 ERA. Only one run was scored on him in the league. I think it was a good decision.”

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