April 1, 2015

Work pays off for Purple Tigers




Staff Writer

ITHACA — Fresh air and hard work paid off for the Cortland High baseball team Tuesday afternoon.
On an actual diamond for the first time this so-far still frigid spring, the Purple Tigers banged out 16 hits and rolled to a 16-2 OHSL Freedom Division crossover romp over Oswego at Cornell’s David F. Hoy Field in their season-opener. The contest, believed to be the first between two Section 3 teams this season, counts as a league game for CHS, which is in the Freedom’s National.
“We didn’t get out of the gate very smoothly, but I think the way we practiced — in the gym, at the McDonald Sports Complex once and in the school parking lot — paid off,” Cortland coach Ben Albright said. “We made the best of it. We got outside five or six times, and even though the guys complained when it was in the 30s, we were able to set up our infield and work on different situations.
“Hats off to Oswego for being willing to come down and play. That tells you a lot about their program. They were outside for the first time and wanted to get out as much as any program. Thanks to Cornell and Matt Coates, the associate athletic director, for making this happen. We were all pleased that the weather cooperated for a few hours.”
While it was cold and there was snow in the air the first couple of innings, the sun actually began to shine, ironically once the Purple Tigers had taken control. They were able to do that thanks largely to senior right fielder Nikolai Tubbs, who went 2-for-3 with a double, triple, five RBIs, two runs scored and a stolen base in another testament to the benefits of hard work.
“I came out of last year not hitting very well,” Tubbs said. “But I worked a lot on my swing in the off-season, keeping things shorter. I worked hard and showed a lot of improvement. That showed today. After I started off with the double it pumped me up and I was more confident.”’
THE BUCCANEERS nicked CHS junior starter and winner Jake Woods for an unearned run in the top of the first on an infield error and subsequent RBI single by senior catcher Alec Kunzwiler, who ended up with two of his team’s six hits on the day.
After a scoreless bottom of the first Cortland took control of the game with a five-run second. The outburst was highlighted by Tubbs’ two-run double to right-center, a two-run double to left by senior center fielder/pitcher Justin Prentice and a squeeze bunt by senior first baseman Sage Brown that plated Prentice.
The Purple Tigers blew the game open with eight runs in the third, when they sent 13 men to the plate. Tubbs laced a bases-loaded triple to the fence in left-center to drive in the first three runs, while sophomore catcher James Lane had a two-run single. Senior third baseman Andrew Babcock and senior left fielder Alfonse Gumaer each singled home a run, and the other run scored on an Oswego error.
“Nikolai hit that triple hard; that was a shot,” Albright said. “He came into the preseason in great shape and hit the ball well inside; we decided to start him in right today and he made the most of the opportunity.
“Their starter, (senior Josh) Carney, threw hard and was able to locate well, keeping the ball down. But we figured out his fastball, hit the ball hard and put it in play. Jake was locating his fastball a little bit low, but figured out his release point and was able to get through the first couple innings allowing only one run, which was pretty gritty.”
Woods was helped by an unusual play in the second, as with men on first and third with one out Oswego sophomore left fielder Joe Wallace lofted a fly ball to center that fell after being controlled by Prentice for a catch, causing some confusion on the basepaths that ended up in the runner on first being called out for not tagging up, wiping out a run.
OSWEGO COACH JOHN Finch was understandably disappointed in the way the season started for his team, noting that “It was unacceptable; we played as poorly as you can play in a varsity game. Not to take anything away from Cortland, but we were apathetic in every area we could be. We certainly didn’t come out with intensity like it was the first game of the year.
“You would think that getting the lead early would motivate us, but we’re a young team and maybe our players just assumed that things were going to be given to them. We didn’t respond very well when Cortland made their run. At that point somebody has to stop the bleeding; that’s as much on our veterans as anyone. No one stepped up and showed verbal leadership; everyone just stepped back and let things happen, which is unacceptable.”
Woods ended up giving up two hits and the unearned run in four innings with three strikeouts. Prentice worked two innings with three strikeouts and gave up three hits and the Bucs’ other run, all in the sixth when Kunzwiler collected his second single with one out and eventually scored on an infield single by senior first baseman-pitcher Chris Sullivan. Sophomore Duff Steve gave up one hit in finishing up with a scoreless seventh for the winners.
Prentice singled in the fourth, went all the way to third when the ball was mishandled and later scored on a wild pitch to make it 14-1. After Oswego’s second run, the winners closed out the scoring with two sixth-inning runs. A wild pitch plated junior right fielder-first baseman Curtis Wilk, who had walked to lead off the inning, and sophomore shortstop Alex Babcock singled home Prentice, who had collected his third hit of the game, to close out the scoring.
Gumaer went 3-for-4 on the day with an RBI and two runs, while Prentice (double, two RBIs, four runs, stolen base) and Alex Babcock (RBI, run) both went 3-for-5. Andrew Babcock went 2-for-2 with an RBI, a run and a stolen base.
Cortland is slated to visit Syracuse CBA April 9 in an 11 a.m. start, though that contest, as scheduled, is in doubt due to the lingering cold and subsequent field conditions in Central New York.

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