Wolverines starting to feel right at home at Russell E. Diethrick Park

For years, it seemed as if Russell E. Diethrick Park was a haunted field for Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach and his Wolverines.

Now, it has become home-field advantage.

After a string of tough loses at the stadium located on the Jamestown Community College campus, the Wolverines have won the past two Section VI Class D titles there.

And now they get a Far West Regional game there today at 4 p.m. when Westfield takes on Genesee Valley for the right to go to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Final Four next weekend in Binghamton.

“The stadium was our nemesis for so many years,” Kaltenbach said. “Now we are talking about it as home-field advantage. It has really come full circle. We are so used to going there. We are familiar with the bus ride there and we are used to the pre-game preparation. We know it’s not a surprise. This is the first time Genesee Valley has reached the Far West Regionals. I would like to think it’s a home-field advantage somewhat.”

The Jaguars reached today’s contest thanks to a 10-5 victory over Arkport on Tuesday. It was a game Kaltenbach and the Wolverines attended.

“Fundamentally, they look pretty decent,” Kaltenbach said. “They hit the crap out of the ball Tuesday, and I don’t think the Arkport pitcher pitched that bad. The players were glad we got to see them. It eased their mind. They know what they are going to see. I assume we will see the same pitcher. If he throws, it will be four games in eight days. He threw a tight curveball. He threw a lot of first pitch fastballs. For all I know, they have a great No. 2 pitcher.”

Westfield will send out Greg Schroeder to the mound, who is no stranger to pitching in big games. He pitched in last year’s NYSPHSAA championship game, and was the winning pitcher Saturday in the Sectional title game as he struck out 10 in eight innings of work in the team’s 2-1 win over North Collins.

“He gives me my best defense, too,” Kaltenbach said of having Schroeder on the mound. “I think this is the strongest defense we have when he is pitching. He is our No. 1 pitcher and he wants the ball.”

Offensively, Kaltenbach is looking for Jonathan Wilson to shine. Wilson has seven homers on the season and a batting average of .600.

“Wilson is our sparkplug and lead-off hitter,” he said, noting Wilson was named the school’s valedictorian early this week. “Some other guys have been doing it, but he needs to have a good game for us. He needs to spark us. The problem is he had seven homers. Now, I think he is swinging too hard. He needs to be content with a hard grounder up the middle.”

A win today would go a long way in validating Westfield baseball, as the program still has a chip on its shoulder, despite last year’s historic run to the state title game. Even though they reached last year’s final, pessimists noted the team would not have made it without pitching ace Nolan Hunt, who is now playing NCAA Division I baseball at Canisius.

“We have heard it from the minute we got back,” Kaltenbach said. “They said, ‘That was great, but you will be missing him (this) year.’ I heard it and the kids heard it. I think a win (today) does validate us. They are so focused on going back, just to show people it wasn’t a fluke. The fact is, we all wanted to prove to people that all 16 of us are a team. It’s not just one guy.

“If we can get back to the state tournament, what a great accomplishment it will be,” Kaltenbach concluded. “The success these guys have had is unbelievable. It’s a great group of guys to coach. They are great in every aspect.”

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