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Albion to face old N-O foe Starpoint for Class A berth in state playoffs

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 3 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Cheryl Wertman – Albion center fielder Trey Hart and his Purple Eagle teammates will face Starpoint for the Section VI Class A berth in the state playoffs at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Lewiston-Porter.

A decade after they last met as Niagara-Orleans League foes Albion and Starpoint will meet for the Section VI Class A berth in the state baseball playoffs at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Lewiston-Porter.

Albion advanced to the state qualifier by defeating Springville 8-3 Saturday for the Class A2 championship while Starpoint claimed the A1 title with a 5-2 win over Williamsville South.

“It’s kind of interesting going against an old N-O team. It brings back a bit of the rivalry,” said Albion Coach Bruce Blanchard. “They have a good team and they beat some good teams to get here.”

Albion, which has now won a sectional title four of the last five years, came up big both defensively and offensively in the first inning to key the win over Springville.

The Purple Eagles first got out of a second and third jam in the top of the first without giving up a run and then erupted for three runs of their own in the bottom of the first to take a lead they never relinquished.

“That first inning was huge to first get out of the second and third jam and then to come right in and score. That set the tone for the game,” said Blanchard. “I think the same thing will be big Wednesday. Whichever team steps up early and gets the lead, that will be big.”

Connor Barleben, who went the distance on the mound scattering six hits and striking out six, also had a big day at the plate banging out RBI doubles in the first and third innings as the Purple Eagles tallied three times in each frame.

“I feel good about our pitching with Connor and Austin Loyd,” said Blanchard. “If we can bring our bats like we did Saturday and make some plays in the field I like our chances.”

The Albion attack was balanced against Springville as John Warne, Steven Stauss, Trey Hart, Noah Preston, John Krieger, Aaron Burnside and Dominic DiCureia also all helped to drive in runs.

Against Springville, in addition to the battery of Barleben at pitcher and Warne at catcher, the Purple Eagles had Stauss at first base, Burnside at second, Downs at shortstop, DiCureia at third, Loyd in left field, Hart in center, Preston in right and Krieger the designated hitter.

Interestingly, the last diamond meeting between the teams was in Starpoint’s final game as an N-O League member in 2004 when Albion posted a 11-2 win to complete a 13-1 title season. Ironically, the Purple Eagles also claimed the N-O crown this season with a 13-1 record.

The winner of Wednesday’s game will face Section V Class A champion Pittsford Sutherland in the Far West Regional Saturday at a site to be determined.

Albion will be looking to end a brief two game drought in the state qualifier as the Purple Eagles lost by narrow one run margins of 2-1 to Grand Island in 2012 and 5-4 to Hamburg in 2011. The Purple Eagles last advanced to the regionals in 2010 after edging Williamsville South 5-3 for the Class A title.