Niagara-Orleans League varsity baseball teams may have finally figured out a way to stop Albion’s outstanding senior Justin Ward.

Wait patiently for the sun to set.

Darkness put an end to Ward’s onslaught in Thursday’s important early-season N-O battle for first place between the Newfane Panthers and the visiting Albion Purple Eagles.

Under cold, cloudy skies and a slight drizzle, Ward was simply red hot for head coach Gary Mannella’s team, earning a complete-game victory and smacking a home run in Albion’s 12-2 win in six innings.

The Purple Eagles improved to 5-0 in the N-O, while defending league-champion Newfane dropped to 4-1 under first-year head coach Mark Kurtz.

“I felt good out there. I had good control and I was throwing the curve ball over for strikes consistently when I was down in the count,” said Ward (2-0), who tossed his second consecutive three-hit win of the season. He fanned nine Panthers and walked five.

“They beat us twice last year and beat us out for the league championship, so it was nice to get a little revenge, especially here,” said Ward, whose sixth inning home run broke open a close game in the Blue Zone.

Albion plated seven runs in all in the sixth — all with two outs — after Newfane had battled back in the bottom of the fifth to cut the vistors’ lead to 5-2 on an RBI single by Brett Backes and a wild pitch.

“Justin threw a great game with great movement on his pitches,” Mannella said.

“And we put the bat on the ball today.”

A two-out double by Jeff Andalora (2-for-4, double) ignited Albion’s decisive sixth-inning uprising. The Purple Eagles, who finished with 13 hits, also got an RBI double from Tom Hicks, a single by Mark Armstrong, an RBI double by Brad Rush, an RBI single by Kevin Walter, a double by Johnathan Forder and an RBI single by Shane Woolston before the third Panthers hurler of the inning, Backes, could get the final out via strikeout. Ward, Nick Theodorakos, Hicks and Woolston each finished with two hits.

Losing hurler Matt Ames pitched well for Newfane, before being relieved by Rohn Pierce, trailing 6-2 in the sixth. Ames had two of Newfane’s three hits in the game. The other was by Joe Robinson.

“I thought Matt pitched very well for us and kept us in the game,” Kurtz said.

“They just kept hitting the ball hard, and Justin really pitched a great game for them. He’s the best opposing pitcher we’ve seen by far this season. We’d better be ready for him the next time.”

Trending Video

Recommended for you