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Winning way carries OFA baseball to final final

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Where there is a will, there are ways.

The Ogdensburg Free Academy baseball team has shown an enormous will and a wealth of knowledge on the ways of winning to reach the state Class B final four.

OFA’s state semifinal, at 1 p.m. Saturday at Union-Endicott High School, will feature a matchup between the No. 1- and No. 3-ranked Class B teams in the state. The third-ranked Blue Devils (13-2) meet the top-ranked Section 6 champion Fredonia Hillbillies (23-2), who have topped The Buffalo News Western New York Small School (Class B, C and D) rankings all season.

Outstanding pitching and defense have anchored a 19-game winning streak by the Hillbillies.

The 10 a.m. semifinal pits second-ranked Clinton (19-2) of Section 3 against fourth-ranked Spackenkill (20-2) of Section 9. The state title game is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Union-Endicott’s Sylvester Field.

Coach Tom Pinkerton’s Blue Devils earned the program’s fourth trip to the final four on Tuesday with a 3-1 nine-inning victory over Section 2’s Schalmont. Pinkerton’s father, the late Jim Pinkerton, and his assistant, Mike Sargent, guided teams to two final fours and one championship game appearance. The now retired Sargent and his assistant, Gary Corbine, led an OFA to the final four six years ago.

Coach Pinkerton, and his assistant and brother, Marc Pinkerton, will be looking to lead OFA to its second state finals appearance following the 1993 team, which his father guided.

Tuesday’s contest featured a stunning 23-strikeout performance by senior right-handed pitcher Breton LaRose and a dramatic two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning by senior Andrew Cole. The dramatics picked up from a 7-6, 11-inning victory over Potsdam in the Section 10 title game.

The win erased some memories of last spring when the Sacred Heart University-bound LaRose struggled with his control in a first-round loss to Albany Academy of Section 2.

“Last year’s game was very tough, but I think it helped me. I came out tonight and I was very focused and extremely confident,” LaRose said.

The sectional and regional finals victories were the first extra-inning games the Devils have played during a season filled with dominant wins.

“Heading into the sectional finals we hadn’t been in a lot of close games this year, but these guys have been in a lot of big games throughout their athletic careers,” Tom Pinkerton said. His team features players who have played on last year’s sectional championship baseball team and contributed to league and/or sectional championships in soccer, football, basketball and hockey in the last two school years.

“At the beginning of the season, we took the approach of concentrating on winning the next pitch and winning the next at-bat,’’ Pinkerton said. “The guys have followed through on that, and it has been very successful. Everyone has contributed. Our MVP is the next guy up. As a team we are playing with great confidence, and our seniors have given us great leadership all of time.’’

“Alex Farrell was a great example. He didn’t play in Tuesday’s game, but he was the first guy off the bench after every half-inning.”

Sophomore Seth Pinkerton, who has a 3-0 record with a 1.88 earned-run average and has batted .356 this season, has felt the effects of that leadership.

“Our seniors just know to keep everyone up all of the time,’’ Seth Pinkerton said. “They keep everyone’s confidence up because they know just what to say to pick somebody right up.”

Pinkerton and LaRose (7-2, 2.06 ERA) are both ready to pitch Saturday along with situational specialist Farrell (3-0, 2.60 ERA).

They will match up with Fredonia’s 1-2 combination of Azuza Pacific-bound right-hander Trent Thompson, who pitched a 2-0 three-hitter over Wayland-Cohocton in the regional finals, sophomore Cam Voss, who is unbeaten in his high school career and bats cleanup. Along with closer Weyland Rey, the three hurlers have combined to allow just one run in five postseason games.

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