Blue Devils clinch division title; face JayHawks for league crown

By Julia Green
Led by senior Nate Tuch, who went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs, the Margaretville Blue Devils posted a 15-1 win over the visiting Windham Warriors on Friday to clinch the Delaware League Upper Division title. Margaretville will compete for its first league title since 1994 on Thursday, when they face the Jefferson JayHawks in the crossover game at Oneonta State.
“I’d pitched Patrick [O’Connell] earlier in the week and didn’t want to have to use him if I didn’t have to,” said Margaretville Head Coach Rick Funck. “I started Cody Fronckowiak and he pitched well – six innings of shutout ball and we only had one error behind him. For being as big a game as it was, it was good pitching and we had a very good defensive game.”
The Blue Devils jumped out to an early lead, scoring three runs in the first inning to put Windham behind early on. They kept up the pressure, adding eight more runs over the next three innings to make it 11-0.
Funck said taking the early lead was key.
“It was huge because we had played Roxbury the day before and we had left bases loaded twice and runners on second and third once – it was just like we couldn’t get the big hit. Against Windham, the guys put the ball in play and we ended up getting 12 hits, so the bats came alive. And when you get good pitching and good defense and get a dozen hits, you stand a real good chance of winning the ball game.”
Fronckowiak earned the win for the Blue Devils in six innings, and Mitch Vankeuren pitched the bottom of the seventh. Marshall Bouton, Jon Fairbairn and O’Connell had two hits apiece.
“In the locker room I told them it was important for us to get the bats going, to get back to making one or, at most, two errors in a game,” Funck said. “The games we’ve had trouble winning and games we did lose it’s been a combination of poor defense, a lot of errors, and putting a lot of extra guys on base via walks. When you give up that many base runners without putting the ball in play, it’s very difficult to win those games.”
Friday’s game followed a close call for the Margaretville on Thursday in a game that featured a number of those mistakes. The Blue Devils edged the visiting Roxbury Rockets 8-7 thanks to a two-run, seventh-inning rally.
“That was obviously the most exciting game we played this year,” Rick Funck said.
Margaretville returned to the plate down by one in the bottom of the seventh, and Roxbury relief pitcher Kyle Ciaravino was faced with the bottom of the Blue Devils’ batting order.
Ciaravino walked Margaretville’s No. 8 hitter, Jake Brophy, who stole second and scored on an RBI single to left field by Mitch Vankeuren. Vankeuren made it to second on the play, and advanced to third when the Roxbury catcher’s throw to second passed the base and squeaked into center field.
Funck replaced Vankeuren with pinch runner Jacob Johnson as leadoff hitter Cody Fronckowiak came up to bat. Fronckowiak connected for a grounder to third, which was fielded by Roxbury third baseman David Clark. Clark made the throw home, but Johnson, who had stretched to a considerable lead and broke for home on contact, collided with Roxbury catcher Danny Bird and with the ball, and was ruled safe for the winning run.
“We got runners on base, but that was the most positive thing, that we did get guys in scoring positions,” Rick Funck said. “In the first five innings, we had bases loaded twice and had runners on second and third once, and we stranded them – we just couldn’t get the big hit. It was so frustrating to see that we put ourselves in the position to score runs but then couldn’t produce them.”
The Rockets took a three-run lead in the top of the first, but Margaretville battled back in the bottom of the inning to score four runs and take a one-run lead. Roxbury added two more in the top of the third to make it 5-4, and a two-run single in the sixth inning by Spencer Hinkley gave the Rockets a 7-4 lead.
A sac fly by Brian Faulkner and a groundout by Tuch in the bottom of the sixth brought Margaretville to within one.
Faulkner pitched all seven innings for the Blue Devils, tallying nine strikeouts and allowing nine hits.
“It was definitely a gutsy effort by him,” Rick Funck said. “He seemed to get stronger as the game went along.”
The Blue Devils will face Jefferson in the crossover game at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday at Oneonta State in a game that Funck anticipates will come down to pitching.
“We played Jefferson before and it was a great pitching duel down here,” he said. “I personally think which team wins on Thursday is the team that plays better defense. When we go out and only commit an error or two, we can play with anybody.”