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Purple Eagles capture A2 championship

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 31 May 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo By Cheryl Wertman – Albion players and coaches proudly display the Section VI championship plaque they earned by defeating Springville 8-3 for the Class A2 title this afternoon at Lewiston-Porter.

Moving on top to stay with a quick first inning scoring burst, No. 2 seed Albion went on to defeat No. 4 Springville 8-3 this afternoon in the Section VI Class A2 championship game at Lewiston-Porter.

Avenging a 13-7 loss in last year’s semifinal, Albion scored three runs in the first inning and quickly tacked on three more in the third in route to capturing a Section VI championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

“It was a great team effort. Offensively we came to play today. We put some hits on them,” said Albion Coach Bruce Blanchard whose Purple Eagles will now face former long-time Niagara-Orleans League foe Starpoint for the Section VI Class A berth in the state playoffs at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Lew-Port. Starpoint downed Williamsville South 5-2 to win the Class A1 title.

Photo by Cheryl Wertman – Connor Barleben delivers a pitch for Albion. He also banged out a pair of run producing doubles.

Winning pitcher Connor Barleben, who scattered six hits and struck out six, also helped himself at the plate by banging out run producing doubles to highlight both the first and third inning scoring bursts.

“Connor was huge for us on the mound,” said Blanchard. “He threw strikes and had real good control.”

It was Springville though that mounted the first big threat getting runners to second and third with two out in the top of the first inning. However, the Griffins couldn’t capitalize as Albion quickly got out of the jam on a groundout to Dominic DiCureia at third base.

Purple Eagles catcher John Warne also came up with a big play in the frame throwing out Springville’s Adam Wolfley as he tried to steal second for the first out. Wolfley had lead off the game with a single.

Photo by Cheryl Wertman – Albion shortstop JJ Downs takes the throw at second base from catcher John Warne to get Springville’s Adam Wolfley. Albion second baseman Aaron Burnside backs up the play.

Bolstered by that big defensive stand, the Albion offense quickly went to work in the home half of the first plating three runs on a sacrifice fly by Steven Stauss, a double by Barleben and a single by Noah Preston, A walk and an error set up the threat.

“Connor’s double got us rolling,” said Blanchard.

Springville banged out three singles in the top of the third but could score only one run. The Griffins again left two runners stranded as Barleben ended the threat himself on a pop out to the mound for the final out.

Photo by Cheryl Wertman – Albion third baseman Dominic DiCureia puts the tag on Springville’s Andrew Scharra.

The Purple Eagles offense again answered the challenge getting that run back with interest in the home half of the third. A walk to Warne and a single by Stauss ignited the uprising as a double by Barleben, a fielders choice play off the bat of Preston and a sacrifice fly by Aaron Burnside plated three more runs to boost the lead to 6-1. A single by Trey Hart helped to keep the inning going.

“We brought our bats today,” said Blanchard.

Springville cut the deficit a bit to 6-2 with a run in the fifth on an error and Kyle Crotty’s third hit of the afternoon but the Griffins would get no closer.

Photo by Cheryl Wertman – Albion seniors Steven Stauss, Connor Barleben and John Warne celebrate the victory seconds after the final out.

Albion put a lock on the victory by scoring twice in the sixth on an error and an RBI double by Warne for a commanding 8-2 lead. A walk, a sacrifice bunt by DiCureia and a single by John Krieger set up that opportunity.

Springville did pick up one run in the top of the seventh on a pair of errors but Albion quickly shut down that rally and put a lock on the title on infield outs by Warne and JJ Downs at shortstop.

The Albion defense also had Burnside with two assists at second base in both the third and fourth innings while Barleben struck out two in the fourth and sixth frames.

Albion, which will take a 16-2 record into the Class A state qualifier, previously captured Section VI championships in 2010, 2011 and 2012 during this recent title run.

Photo by Cheryl Wertman – Albion players give an unsuspecting head Coach Bruce Blanchard a victory douse with the water bucket as the Purple Eagles mentor has a post game chat with a sectional official.