May 21, 2015
Purple Tigers unable to clinch
EAST SYRACUSE — The disappointment was evident in Ben Albright’s voice.
Cortland High’s baseball coach had, moments before, seen his team, just three outs away from clinching the OHSL Freedom National Division championship outright, surrender three runs in the bottom of the seventh and lose to East Syracuse-Minoa 9-8.
“Nine missed signs in the last week of the regular season,” said Albright with a shake of his head, his team now 7-5 in league play and 7-6 overall. “With Justin Prentice pitching and up two runs we should be able to pull it out. We had a chance to win, but made some miscues. A good team takes advantage of that, and they did.
“There were hit-and-run signs missed and the runners were thrown out trying to advance, plus some missed steals and bunts. That’s inexcusable. We have to be better than that. We should be peaking going into sectionals next week, but this was a step back for sure.”
The game looked to be headed in the other direction for CHS just minutes earlier on a chilly afternmoon, the visitors with an insurance run in the top of the seventh to go up 8-6. Sophomore shortstop Alex Babcock led off with a walk from Spartans junior reliever Shane Krawec and stole second before coming home on a single to left by senior designated hitter Aiden Stehm.
The Spartans, however, refused to concede. Senior shortstop Brandon Breen, who was the hosts’ starter and threw the first six innings, led off with a single to left before junior third baseman Nick Castrello hit a looping pop fly to a sunny right-center than fell in for a hit. Senior left fielder Matt Hunter lashed a single to right to load the bases and, one out later, senior center fielder Jake Temple slashed a double that just got over the glove of Cortland senior right fielder Nikolai Tubbs against the backdrop of the sun, tying the score and putting men on second and third.
One out later sophomore right fielder Jason Sweredoski hit a hard grounder to third The throw was in time to get him at first but was mishandled, the ball hitting Sweredoski and caroming away as Hunter scored the game-winning run.
“One of our weaknesses has been not getting the big hit when we needed it,” ES-M coach John Herrington said. “We’ve gotten the pitching and defense. But we had a good week last week, going 3-0, and I think it got us a little relaxed and confident. This is a tough sun field, our home-field advantage, and I feel for their guys. Cortland is a great team and will always battle you. Ben coaches them very well.
“I’m happy for our guys. They kept swinging and kept the ball in play, putting the pressure on the defense. Our seven and nine hitters (Temple and Sweredoski) did their jobs. Jason wasn’t a starter at the beginning of the season but worked his way into the lineup in right.”
“I played right my first two seasons and know that’s a tough position here with the sun,” Temple said in discussing his clutch game-tying hit. “I was looking to jump on a pitch early, and got a fastball. We’ve been battling all year, and today we finally made good on it. It’s a good way to go into sectionals.”
Cortland didn’t waste time jumping on pitches from Breen, scoring four runs in the first inning. Prentice led off the game with a bloop single to right and senior second baseman Sage Brown singled up the middle before a passed ball moved each up a base, to second and third. Senior third baseman Andrew Babcock then hit a two-run single to center before sophomore catcher James Lane reached base on an error. Tubbs then singled to center to score Babcock and move lane to third before sophomore shortstop Alex Babcock singlet to right to score Lane.
The hosts answered right back with three runs in the bottom of the first as an error and hit batter set the table for a two-run double to center by Breen, who later came home on a fielder’s choice grounder by senior first baseman Nick Pullano.
“We hit their number one pitcher hard in the first inning, then gave a bunch back to them,” Albright said.
The Purple Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the second on a double to center by Prentice and walks to Brown and Andrew Babcock in the second, a sacrifice fly to center by Lane scoring Prentice to make it 5-3. ES-M tied the game at 5-5 with two runs in the bottom of the second as an error set the stage for an RBI double to right by Williams, who came home one out later on Breen’s second double in as many innings, this one to left-center.
The Spartans took their first lead, 6-5, in the bottom of the fifth. Castello singled to left with one out and Hunter followed with an infield single before Pullano doubled over Tubbs’s head in right to score Castrello and send Hunter to third before being thrown out after rounding past second. Temple then walked but was picked off by Prentice to end the threat.
Cortland came right back to take the lead, 7-6, in the top of the sixth. Prentice tripled deep to center and scored on a fielder’s choice by Brown, who reached base when the throw home wasn’t close to getting Prentice. A groundout advanced Brown, who was moving on the play, to second and Lane walked. Brown then scored on a fielder’s choice by Tubbs, Lane knocking the ball out of freshman second baseman Jimmy Griffin’s glove with a hard slide to break up a potential double play.
That set the stage for the wild seventh inning as ES-M improved to 7-6 in the Freedom American and 9-10 overall.
Alex Babcock went 3-for-3 with a double, RBI and run scored for CHS, which had 10 hits in all, while Prentice went 3-for-5 with a double, triple and three runs. Breen (two doubles, three RBIs, two runs) and Hunter (run) both went 3-for-4 to pace the Spartans’ 12-hit attack.
“We expected ES-M to be good,” Albright said. “They certainly face good competition on their side of the division and we knew they could put up runs with a good lineup. Justin (now 2-2) pitched well enough to give us a chance to win the game, but we didn’t come through. We play these guys again (today in a non-leaguer) and then finish the league schedule Friday against Jamesville-DeWitt.”
Both games are on Greg’s Field starting at 4:30 p.m. Cortland will have to win Friday’s contest to claim the Freedom National title alone, as senior Colin Smith threw a no-hitter with nine strikeouts Tuesday and second-place Marcellus finished its league schedule at 7-6 (9-9 overall) with a 15-2 romp at Chittenango. The Purple Tigers swept the Mustangs during the regular season.
Homer (4-7, 5-8) was eliminated from Freedom National title contention Tuesday in a 7-0 loss at Freedom American champion Syracuse CBA, which got a combined two-hitter from senior hurlers Emmett Dunn and Webb Little.
The Purple Tigers will finish a busy week by hosting the annual Greg Partigianoni Memorial Tournament Saturday on Greg’s Field, taking on McGraw at 11 a.m. Homer and Dryden meet on Dave Guido Field at the same time, and depending on the results of the two games Cortland will then play one of those two teams on Greg’s Field in a 2 p.m. start.
The sectional seeding meeting will take place Sunday.
CORTLAND JVs lost to host ES-M 6-5 and are now 3-5 league and 3-6 overall. John Frederick went 3-for-4 and scored a run while Bruce Haines had a single, two RBIs and also scored a run. Troy Vallese allowed six hits and two earned runs with five strikeouts in throwing a complete game.
The JVs were to host ES-M today on Dave Guido Field starting at 4:30 p.m.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe