Jefferson tops Margaretville in Section IV play

By Julia Green
When the top-seeded Margaretville Blue Devils faced visiting eighth-seeded Jefferson in the second round of the 2010 Section IV Class D baseball tournament on Friday, it was a rematch of the previous week’s Delaware League title game. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, so was the result.
Margaretville fell to the JayHawks 7-3 to bring the 2010 season to a close in a game that Margaretville Head Coach Rick Funck said was plagued by similar issues that troubled many games in the latter half of the Blue Devils’ season.
“We had an entire week to try to get our game back into focus,” Funck said. “It seemed like toward the end of the year what really hurt us was that our defense kind of fell apart, committing anywhere from four to six errors a game.”
That affliction was one that the Blue Devils were unable to shake on Friday, when they committed five errors, three of which came in the first four innings as Jefferson scored six runs. Also affecting his team, Funck said, was a lack of offense in early innings.
“I think the guys came out a little bit tight at the plate because we knew we were going to see their No. 2 pitcher, and our first eight guys were eight up, eight down,” he said. “I thought we missed a great opportunity to score some runs in the first three innings.”
In fact, Margaretville’s first hit didn’t come until the third inning, when Jacob Johnson connected for a single with two outs. Johnson scored on an RBI single by Jon Fairbairn, and Cody Fronckowiak singled to put two runners on base. Patrick O’Connell came to the plate and hit a solid drive to center field, but Jefferson’s center fielder snagged it to end the inning.
“The guys were kind of pumped up then, when it was a 2-1 ball game,” Funck said.
Starting pitcher Brian Faulkner had his best inning in the top of the third, when he pitched to the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 batters, and Funck sent Faulkner back out to the mound in the fourth. The Blue Devil defense got the first hitter out, but the JayHawks’ offense sparked, tallying four runs to make it a 6-1 ball game.
“I thought by not taking advantage of the first guy they pitched we really lost an opportunity to put some runs on the board there,” Funck said. “As soon as we did hit the guy, they took him out of the game.”
He added that much of his team’s hitting came with two outs on the board, which limited the number of runs they were able to put up.
“The key to the game was getting some runs early,” he said. “When they scored those four runs in the fourth inning, it just kind of deflated us. We got close, and then they scored four runs. So the combination of not hitting early and again, our defense… we made five errors.”
O’Connell entered the game in relief in the fifth inning and tallied six strikeouts over the final three innings of the game.
Johnson led the Margaretville offense, going 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Grant Cure and Fairbairn each had an RBI single and Cody Fronckowiak connected for a single.
The Blue Devils finish the season 10-5.
“When we started the season, I said to the guys, ‘Let’s have a better year than we had last year,’” Funck said. “Last year we qualified for sectional play and we were just a game or two over .500. This year, obviously, our side of the league became very competitive and we ended up with an 8-1 league record and ended up 10-3, so you look at that and we obviously had a better year than the year before, so they have nothing to be ashamed of.
“The mysterious thing about the season,” he added, “was that when we were 8-0 we had not committed more than two errors in any game and had games where we played errorless baseball. And then when we lost our first game to Hunter-Tannersville, it seemed like the second half of the season, our defense went south. Any coach in any sport will tell you, you win games with offense, but championships with defense. I think Margaretville and Jefferson are two equal teams, and I think who plays better defense is going to win and we ended up making five errors in each of those games against them. Jefferson had one error in the crossover and zero in the sectional game. It puts the truth into the old adage about offense versus defense; do you want to win games, or win championships?”
The Blue Devils will lose four seniors to graduation: Brian Faulkner, Jacob Johnson, Nate Tuch and Mitch Vankeuren.
“They’re going to be big shoes to fill,” Funck said, adding that his team as a whole has been a special one to coach both on and off the diamond.
“In terms of overall attitude they’re at the top of the list of players I’ve coached. They should be proud of the season they had.”