April 24, 2013
Trojans’ tenacity displayed
Late rally nips previously unbeaten Purple Tigers
Always expect the unexpected when Homer Central and Cortland High get together.
Most expected a pitching duel between CHS Purple Tiger senior hurler Brian Hughes going up against the host Trojans’ senior ace Payten Boice.
Both heralded hurlers did all right, but it was junior right-hander Chris Lee stealing the show with two crucial shutout innings of relief work that helped earn Homer a 4-3 come-from-behind OHSL Freedom Division win over the last undefeated team in the division.
Syracuse CBA was undefeated and leading the National Division, but Jamesville-DeWitt (5-1, 8-1) retook the American Division lead with a 10-2 pounding of the Brothers (2-1, 4-1). Homer will host CBA Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Both Homer and CHS are now 3-1 contenders in the American Division along with J-D. Homer stands 6-3 overall, while state-ranked Cortland suffered its first loss in six outings.
“It really was my teammates, I just helped a little,” Lee said of his relief effort. “It was my teammates that made it happen.”
“Chris Lee has come up big in two games now,” Homer coach Robert Nasiatka said. “Going from Payten throwing in the 80s to Chris Lee throwing stuff like that old knuckleball and it makes a nice combination.
“Going against a coach like Ben (Albright) and Brian (Hughes) as the pitcher makes it fun playing the game,” he continued. “The guys are really great friends and it’s great to have a competitive game like this. We did show our tenacity today and that was something we had been missing. The guys are doing the right things, making the plays, that’s a good thing.”
Lee’s pitching did a good job keeping CHS hitters off-balance.
“I do throw a two-seam fastball, but I do like to use the curveball and knuckleball,” Lee added.
LEE RETIRED THE first two guys and got some help to complete the 1-2-3 sixth inning.
Hughes hit a grounder to first base that was misplayed for an error. As the ball, rolled into right field, Hughes hesitated and then broke for second. Trojan rightfielder Connor Simonetta hustled and picked up the ball before firing it to shortstop Jake Hayes who fell on Hughes while tagging him out to end the inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Homer pinch-hitter Kyle Ritz battled with two strikes and earned a walk. Davis came to the plate a stroked a tailing drive to right field. Caden Giroux tried to make a diving catch, but the ball got by him.
Ritz circled the bases and scored the winning run while Davis hustled to third with a triple. Hughes got a groundout to end the inning, but the damage was done.
“It was an unbelievable game,” Davis said. “It felt good to get that hit in. I was due. I knew I was going to third once the ball got by him, there was no hesitation.”
Lee pitched a perfect seventh inning to get the win. Boice made a tough catch on a pop-up at second base for the first out. Lee fielded a one-hopper and threw to first for the second out and he struck out the final batter.
“Once Chase hit that triple, I knew I had to go out and make it happen,” Lee said. “I was able to do that and we got the win.”
“No one expected that from Chris,” Davis chuckled of the great relief work. “He does have a wicked knuckleball and he throws the curveball well. He does keep the fastball low and that’s what you need to do. He pitched great.”
“A COUPLE OF BOUNCES and this is a different game,” Albright said. “Homer did a nice job. They didn’t fold. Give them the credit, they did it today.
“Don’t think about what Caden should or should not have done,” he continued. “Credit Chase Davis getting the clutch hit. Talk about timely hitting. That was a great job right there. He does a nice job behind the plate and he got the big hit when Homer needed it.”
Cortland led 3-1 before Homer scored twice in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game at 3-3.
A one-walk to Giroux got a Cortland runner on in the first inning. A wild pitch rolled to the backstop and Davis had trouble locating it which allowed Giroux to scamper to third. Hughes lifted a sacrifice fly to left field for a 1-0 Purple Tiger lead.
Hughes helped his own cause in the top of the third by drilling Boice’s 1-0 pitch into the bus garage parking lot for a solo home run and 2-0 lead.
It could have been more, but Trojan shortstop Jake Hayes turned a double play by fielding a grounder and stepping on second base for the force out and throwing to first to complete the double play.
The Trojan got one run back in the bottom of the third. Millet DeAngles hit a double down the left field line. Hughes nearly got out of the inning with a strikeout and fly out, but Davis singled to to right field, scoring DeAngles to cut the Purple Tiger lead to 2-1.
CORTLAND LEFT TWO runners on base in the fourth inning, but got its third run in the fifth inning.
Zach Whelan (2-for-3) drew a lead-off walk and stole second base. With one out, Justin Travis singled to left field to score Whelan. A two-out error got Purple Tigers to second and third, but Boice got out of the jam by fielding a comeback bouncer and throwing to first for the final out.
Chase Davis drew a lead-off walk and Jake Casey (3-for-4) singled in the Trojans half of the fifth inning. Boice followed with an RBI single to score Davis and pinch-hitter Igor Sokolik delivered the game-tying single with one out.
With runners at first and second, Hughes got a defensive gem from his shortstop. Whelan fielded a line drive by Hayes and quickly spun to tag out Boice before he could back to second for the double play. This set the stage for the dramatic final sixth and seventh innings.
Did Albright think of pulling Hughes after the fifth inning?
“Not at all,” he replied. “Brian was well under 80 pitches. He only had 65 going into that inning. He’s our big dog and we were going to go with him. I would do it the same way again.”
Cortland will return to action Thursday with a 4:30 OHSL Freedom Division contest at Bishop Ludden.
CORTLAND JVs got a no-hitter from Nikolai Tubbs and posted an 8-0 victory over Homer. Tubbs struck out 11 and walked just two batters in the victory.
Curtis Wilk led the Cortland offense going 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Matt Pasquarello added a 1-for-3 effort with two RBIs.
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