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March 23, 2016

Walkoff homer lifts Dragons past Ithaca

SUNYBob Ellis/staff photographer
The ball bounces away from second baseman Connor Griffin as Josh Savacool, of Ithaca College, makes it into second on a steal Tuesday. Griffin is a Cortland High graduate.

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

Every baseball fan knows the legend of Babe Ruth’s called shot in the World Series. You can now add SUNY Cortland Sports Information Director Fran Elia to that list.
With Ralph Nuzzi batting for the Red Dragons in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 2-2 game against visiting archrival Ithaca College Tuesday afternoon, Elia mentioned that in his 25 year at Cortland, he had never seen a walk-off home run at Wallace Field...then Nuzzi delivered. The sophomore first baseman swung at a 3-2 pitch and would hit a line drive that just cleared the rightfield fence to give second-ranked Cortland a 3-2 walk-off win. The Red Dragon improve to 15-3 overall while the Bombers fall to 6-7.
“He (IC pitcher Tyler Hill) was working me away with fastballs early in the count and then came back with a curveball,”Nuzzi said. “With a full count, he came inside with a fastball. I was lucky enough to turn on it. Without the wind, I didn’t think it would go out, but it did.
“It was a great win for us after those two losses to New Paltz,” he added. “Hopefully this will help us turn it around and get on a roll again.”
It was a nice bounce back for Nuzzi who came on to pinch run in the bottom of the eighth inning and had a ground ball roll under his glove to start the top of the ninth as Ithaca College got two runners on with no outs after a second error.
“I did get a steal, but that error at first was pretty bad,” Nuzzi said. “I had confidence in Turner Parry when Coach (Joe) Brown brought him in. I was lucky enough to pick him up in the end and get him a win. That’s just baseball. You have your ups and downs. Today it was me. It will be someone else another day.”
“I think you dream of the opportunity as a player to make up for a mistake,” Brown said. “Ralph is a tough kid. He’s been competing for playing time which is why we also moved him to the outfield. He did a good thing with his stolen base. He did good things today except for that one ball that ate him up.”
Parry did come on in the ninth with those two runners at the first and third. The senior righthander out of West Genesee High School struck out the next three batters to end the threat. Parry (2-1) picked up his 32nd K of the season to start the Ithaca 10th inning and followed with a ground out and fly out to keep the Red Dragons in position to win. He has two saves as well and lowered his earned run average to 1.00 and recorded those 32 strikeouts in just 18 innings pitched.
“The stats and stuff don’t matter,” Parry said. “Any of us know the job coach asked us to do when we come out of the bullpen. We know if we can get the job done, the offense will pick us up like today.”
With the injuries to the pitching staff right now, Parry has gotten a chance to shine and as delivered.
“We have cut-and-pasted our pitching staff together right now,” Parry said. “Luckily we have a deep staff. We have a lot of guys we can throw and a lot of guys we trust. You just go out and do your best when your number is called.”
“Turner Parry,” Brown said, “That was pretty special. Really all the pitchers did good today. We only gave up two runs and five hits.”
Ithaca did take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Josh Savacool (2-for-5) led off with a single and stole second base. A pair of errors allowed him to score.
Cortland got a lead-off double from Paul Dondero (2-for-5) in the bottom of the first inning, but the first of three double plays turned by the Ithaca defense slowed the momentum. The Red Dragons did get singles by Fabio Ricci and Conrad Ziemendorf still gave the home team a chance, but a ground out ended the threat.
The Red Dragons got Sean Getman and Dondero to start the second inning, but again failed to score as Bomber starter Benji Parkes held his own on the mound.
Cortland took tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Cortland High grad Connor Griffin (2-for-4) hit a one-out double down the right field line and scored on a double by Nick Hart. After a single by Connor Manderson, Ithaca turned another double play to end the inning. The third Bomber double play came in the fifth inning.
Cortland took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Austin Clock was hit by a Parkes pitch with one out. Griffin singled to centerfield to put runners at the corners and Hart grounded out as Clock scored.
Ithaca tied the game in the top of the seventh inning. Freshman outfielder Sam Little, a graduate of Syracuse CBA, singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Savacool stroked a single to left field that scored Little and knotted the score at 2-2. This was the fourth inning where the Bombers had at least two baserunners and just the second time they were able to score.
It was pinch-hitter Ryan Dougherty and Little who reached on the ninth inning errors and were at second and third when Parry came on to shut the door as he retired all six batters he faced until Nuzzi’s game winner.
“Both Benji and Tyler pitched well,” Ithaca coach George Valasente said. “We just did not execute today. We had numerous opportunities to score runs.
“Give their pitchers credit,” he continued. “Parry was the guys who threw the ball by us. We just need to be better than that.”
Today’s game at Rochester was postponed, so Cortland will have a couple of days off until Fredonia comes to town for SUNYAC competition. The Red Dragons and Blue Devils play a single game at 3 p.m. Friday before a Saturday doubleheader starting at noon.

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