By BRANDON SCHLAGER
Niagara Gazette — ORCHARD PARK -- There’s just something about the sectional playoffs that doesn't sit right with Niagara Falls baseball.
Nerves. Weather. Orchard Park sophomore pitcher Andrew Sipowicz. Whatever it is, it silenced the same bats that piled up 15 runs in the Wolverines’ last outing, a powerful offense that led them to 10 wins and a tie for second place in the tough Niagara Frontier League.
Sipowicz kept Wolverine hitters off balance all game long Wednesday evening as No. 5 Niagara Falls managed just three hits -- two of which came in the final inning -- in its 7-2 Class AA quarterfinal loss to the fourth-seeded Quakers at Orchard Park High School.
The Wolverines’ season came to an end in a similar fashion last season, when their bats were quiet in a 2-1 sectional finals loss to Lancaster as the top-seeded team.
Once again, Niagara Falls simply ran into a hot arm.
“That’s just how the playoffs seem to work for us,” Wolverines head coach Joe Contento said.
While Sipowicz didn't pile up the strikeouts -- he finished with just two, from the first two batters he faced -- his curve ball kept hitters guessing. It seemed every crack of the bat produced a lazy fly-ball to left field or a harmless grounder to second.
Sipowicz logged 6 ⅔ innings of three-hit ball and surrendered just one earned run. He didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning or a baserunner past second until the seventh, after Orchard Park had already built a 7-0 lead.
“The kid threw strikes, kept us off balance with a little deuce all game,” Contento said. “We really didn’t get the chance to hit the ball well. ... It’s just that he had everything working for him today.”
Orchard Park opened up a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning. They scored three more runs in the fifth, fueled by a two-run home run off the bat of Jake Palczewski that chased Colosi, before padding their lead with another run in the sixth.
Senior pitcher Joe Colosi got stuck with the loss in his final game in blue and gold. He allowed five runs on five hits over four innings pitched with five strikeouts and notched the Wolverines’ only extra-base hit with his fifth-inning double to break up the no-hitter.
Niagara Falls wouldn't plate a run until the seventh inning when Dominic Gualano stole third base and came home on an errant throw while pinch running for Taylor Huntsman. Jake Martineau recorded the only RBI of the game on a fielder’s choice one batter later.
The Wolverines’ season ended on three straight strikes to Ryan Daul just as the storm clouds rolled in to cover what had been a mostly sunny sky, offering a bit of symbolism for the game and year.
“You know what? It was a good season for us,” Contento said, pointing to a 10-win season through a tough schedule as a reason to keep a chin up. “We knew it was going to be a tough road to get in this. It was a tough task ahead of us and you’ve just got to take your hats off to the guys. They played great.”Follow contributing sports reporter Brandon Schlager on Twitter @B_Schlag.