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April 23, 2011

 

Red Dragons alone in first

Oneonta swept in showdown of conference co-leaders

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Travis Ratliff was expecting something a little more severe.
The SUNY Cortland starter was working on a two-hit shutout in the second game of this crucial conference baseball doubleheader against Oneonta Friday afternoon when he opened the sixth inning tossing three consecutive pitches outside of the strike zone. That led to head coach Joe Brown’s urgent emergence from the dugout for a one-on-one mound chat.
“I thought he was going to rip me,” the senior southpaw admitted later.
Instead, Coach Brown simply reminded Ratliff on the importance of throwing strikes with a three-run lead to protect.
Ratliff ended up walking that leadoff batter on four pitches, gave up an ensuing hit to Oneonta leadoff hitter Kevin Knack and eventually yielded a run on a groundout. But he quickly regained control, striking out three of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the final seventh inning to finish off a 3-1 complete-game victory and a twinbill sweep for the hosting Red Dragons.
Cortland had held off Oneonta for a 6-4 victory in the nine-inning opening contest to get things started in this match-up of SUNY Athletic Conference co-leaders on a cold and gray-skied day at Wallace Field.
Ratliff’s three-hit performance — to go along with Cortland’s 14-hit outburst in the opening game when the defense turned three double plays to defuse Oneonta scoring chances — has Coach Brown’s bunch 13-1 in conference play and 25-6 overall. The two contenders were hoping to get in the third and final game of this series today at 1:30 p.m. back at Wallace Field if early morning rain showers subside.
“That’s a great sweep. This team has come so far since we started the season 0-3,” said Brown, last year’s NCAA Division III World Series runners-up with a lone loss since returning from their Florida trip back in early March. “Everyone knew we had to replace two through nine in our line-up and I’m just very pleased. Our defense and pitching has been superb. I can’t ask for more.”
With the pair of two-run losses leaving his team two games out of first place heading into the final week of the regular season, at 11-3 in conference play and 20-10 overall Oneonta coach Rick Ferchen would only think of this as a missed opportunity.
“When you face a team like Cortland, you make a mistake and you’re going to get hurt,” said Ferchen. “We’ll learn from it. We’re a young team, not too many seniors, so we’ll learn from this.”
And Ferchen was encouraged how his team battled from from adversity and an early 5-0 hole in the opening game, pulling to within a run at one juncture, as well as giving Ratliff some sixth inning concerns before coming up short in game two.
ONEONTA NEARLY overcame a first inning nightmare in the opener.
The visitors had back-to-back singles to open the game squandered thanks to the first Cortland double play of the day. Then starting hurler Joshua Herzenberg, a tricky lefty with a 5-0 record, lasted all of 13 pitches in the bottom half of that opening frame.
While bouncing a 3-2 breaking pitch into the dirt to walk Cortland’s Nick Thode, Herzenberg went to the ground clutching his left arm in pain. After being attended to, he tested his arm twice with warm-up tosses before discovering his day was over.
“He just had a little pop in his elbow,” said Coach Ferchen. “He went to try to throw and just felt a pain. We’re not going to hurt anybody. He might have been able to go, but he said there was discomfort there and I told him it wasn’t worth it, sit down and we’ll get somebody else.”
Cortland’s Zach Graczyk, who had doubled off Herzenberg, was singled home by John Adornetto for a quick 1-0 lead moments later. Cortland shortstop Adornetto was the first batter Oneonta SOS hurler Zachary Levanduski — a freshman out of Elmira Heights Edison — faced.
Cortland scored four more runs in the second, Graczyk with a two-run single and catcher Tim Panetta an RBI poke into left. Cortland had four hits in that inning and benefited from a pair of Oneonta throwing miscues while unable to deal with Adornetto taking off for second base with runners on the corners, which left everyone safe and a run home.
Oneonta then turned to left-hander Corey Andresen, and the the junior from Deposit kept Cortland off the scoreboard for the next four innings. Cortland hurt its own cause by stranding 15 baserunners over nine innings.
Oneonta finally got to Cortland starter Aaron Schuldt, who took a shutout into the sixth helped out by those three double plays. Eric Wells and Mike Mascar had RBI singles in a three-run sixth, and singles by pinch-hitter Michael Arcuri and Knack led to a seventh inning run to cut Cortland’s lead to 5-4.
The hosts responded with a key bottom of the seventh run. Matt June reached on an infield hit, was bunted to second and scored on Adornetto’s clutch two-out single. With the help of a trio of relievers — John Molloy, Brendan Hourihan and Peter Lompardo — Schuldt improved to 5-1 on the season.
Cortland centerfielder Adam Smith was 4-for-4 including two bunt singles and leadoff man June 4-for-5 in leading the winner’s offense.
RATLIFF, WHO TOSSED a no-hitter in a seven-inning game two starts ago, carried the momentum into the second game with the help of some errorless defensive support — including a fantastic over-the-shoulder catch by shortstop Adornetto with an Oneonta baserunner perched at second base in the third inning.
“It was tough with the wind blowing balls back in,” said Stony Brook transfer Adornetto of that remarkable grab in short left-center field to take away an RBI single from Oneonta’s Knack. “But I didn’t hear anyone calling me off, so I had to get it.”
“Johnny’s catch was amazing. It saved that inning,” said Ratliff.
Meanwhile, Cortland made the most of its scoring chances against Oneonta left-hander Chris Smith (3-2), who allowed just five hits.
After Matt Wild doubled and Justin Fredenburg was plunked with a pitch to open the third inning, a Bryan Mistretta sacrifice bunt moved the runners along. Wild then scored when June lofted a sacrifice fly to left off Smith — his former Colonie High School teammate.
Fredenburg doubled down the line in left to open the fifth inning and was bunted to third by Mistretta. After Graczyk was hit by a pitch with two outs, Nick Thode and Adornetto came up with clutch RBI singles to give Ratliff his three-run cushion.
“We’re just trying to put the ball in play and to get some runs, let them make mistakes,” said Adornetto of Cortland’s opportunistic offense.
“We have to. We have to do that right now. That’s who we are. We can’t pretend to be anything else,” said Brown of having Cortland move base runners along by any means. “We have been swinging the bats better and hitting base hits in the opposite direction, but when you face good pitching you have to take advantage. That first game was 5-0 and we should have made it seven, eight, nine to nothing, and that frustrated me. We let them hang around, and they’re good.”
The Cortland defense is also good, with a lone error against Oneonta over 16 innings. Brown praised the work of Adornetto and third baseman Mistretta, first baseman Thode also applying some nice tag-outs on errant throws.
“Our defense has been pretty good in the past, but it’s great having a defense like this where you know if you can throw strikes and they hit it then the play is going to be made,” said Ratliff.
Homer JVs will have an 4:30 p.m. face-off at Jamesville-DeWitt Tuesday.

 

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