Historic Season Ends for the Power

Historic Season Ends for the Power

Ryan Marfurt, Buffalo News

Cal Kern knew his team wasn't going to enter the summer season as the favorites to win the New York Collegiate Baseball League [NYCBL], but that didn't stop the Niagara Power from earning its first playoff appearance in its fifth-year of existence.

Kern, the founde
r, owner, general manager and even bus driver for the Power, watched as his team did the unthinkable this summer, not only reaching the playoffs, but doing it after a 2-9 start.

"We may not have been the most talented team," Kern said. "But we probably had the greatest team chemistry in the league. I've never seen a team like this in my 50 years of playing and coaching sports."

Much to Kern's disappointment, the ride came to an end on Wednesday as the Geneva Red Wings beat the Power, 6-4, in a first-round playoff game. The Power(24-21) ended the season with four straight losses, but still finished in third place of the West division.

Kern started the team in 2007 to help fill the void left by the Niagara Falls Rapids - the Class-A minor league team that moved to Jamestown in 1993 - and said that this year's playoff berth is a breakthrough his team has been waiting for.

"It kind of created a really neat baseball buzz in Niagara Falls," Kern said. "Some of us said it's like the old days again. It's like bringing minor-league baseball back to Niagara Falls."

After a slow start, a run to the playoffs appeared unlikely. The team had nine errors in a game, which wasn't going to cut it in the country's seventh-best collegiate summer league, according to Kern.

But manager Eric Ebers, who has guided the team the past two years, said that this team was different. Unlike the years before, the 2011 group was better prepared for a turbulent start.

"They are spiritually and physically more mature," said Ebers. "When your leaders represent what you are about, it makes things go easier. It's easier to put in place what we want to do."

After the tumultuous start, the faith-based team, which is also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, posted the best record in the NYCBL. Ebers said most of that run was due to an improvement in fielding and dominant pitching.

One pitcher in particular was Lockport's Rohn Pierce, the 2011 Western New York Player of the Year selected by area coaches. The recent Newfane graduate joined the Power midway through the season.

Pierce will be a freshman at Canisius College and pitched in four games for the Power, going 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA.

"He was thrown right in against Division I and Division II athletes, but he stepped up and handled it well," Kern said. "He was focused, wasn't easily rattled, and did a tremendous job for us. He has a bright future."

Also contributing for the Power was fellow local talent Frank Polino. The catcher graduated from Canisius High School in 2009 and was one of a team-record six players from the Power to play in the NYCBL All-Star game. He was a member of the team at Canisius College, but recently got his release from the school and will transfer.

For the Power, Polino was fourth on the team in runs batted in with 12 and said that he learned a lot from his experiences this summer.

"The one thing about this team that is special is we come together for two months from all different parts of the country to Niagara Falls," Polino said. "It's easy to come in thinking well this is going to be about me. We have all really become like 33 brothers."

Read More about the Power at www.niagarapower.org

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