Purple Eagles set to begin quest for state diamond title
Having already earned league and sectional titles, the Albion High baseball team now takes aim at claiming the biggest prize – a state championship.
The Section VI champion Purple Eagles will begin that quest when they face Section V champ Pittsford Sutherland in the Class A Far West Regional (state quarterfinals) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Diethrick Park in Jamestown.
Ironically, the last time Albion advanced to the regionals, in 2010, the Purple Eagles opponent was Pittsford Sutherland which scored a 6-2 victory at Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo to advance to the state semifinals.
“They had a so-so regular season but they’ve had a real good run at the end and they’re still a real good team,” said Albion Coach Bruce Blanchard of Sutherland which went just 12-8 during the regular season but then won four straight games to win the Section V Class A title.
Seeded No. 4, Sutherland nipped No. 2 Brighton 5-3 in the sectional finals after scoring earlier round wins over Aquinas (8-7), Pittsford Mendon (7-0) and Honeoye Falls-Lima (8-3).
Albion, which captured a third straight Niagara-Orleans League crown with a 13-1 record, advanced to the regionals by first capturing the Section VI Class A2 title with an 8-3 win over Springville and then by earning the overall Section VI Class A title by nipping A1 champ Starpoint 2-1 on Wednesday.
Home runs by winning pitcher Connor Barleben and catcher John Warne provided the margin of victory against Starpoint as the Purple Eagles proved to 17-2 on the season.
“The keys for us are getting off to a good start with our bats and defensively making some plays for our pitcher,” said Blanchard.
In addition to the battery of Barleben and Warne, the Purple Eagles starting lineup against Starpoint included Steven Stauss at first base, Aaron Burnside at second, JJ Downs at shortstop and Dominic DiCureia at third base, Austin Loyd in left field, Trey Hart in center, Noah Preston in right and John Krieger as the designated hitter. Loyd is expected to start on the mound against Sutherland.
Overall this will be Albion’s fourth appearance in the regionals. The Purple Eagles have gone 1-2 in those three previous appearances losing 6-2 to Sutherland in 2010, 9-0 to Victor in 2004 and defeating Wayland-Cohocton 10-5 in 1999.