Opening Day Game Recap

Written by Mikael Desanto

Junior Alexander Ferlenda (St. Bonaventure University) went 2-for-4 with two RBIs as the Syracuse Salt Cats defeated the Rochester Ridgemen 3-1 in 13 innings Saturday night at Basket Road Field in New York Collegiate Baseball League action. The game was the Ridgemen’s home opener.

“Tonight we went on all aspects. We hit a little bit, we pitched, made some plays and we came out ahead in the end,” Salt Cats head coach Mike Martinez said.

The Salt Cats also benefited from the performance of redshirt sophomore Mathew Nerz (Kansas State), who went 3-for-4 with one run scored.

On the mound for the Salt Cats was sophomore Patrick Maybach (Salve Regina University). Maybach threw five innings for the Salt Cats, allowing one run on four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts.

“Just getting ahead and competing with your off-speed pitches really helped,” Maybach said. “Just keeping them off-balance helped out.”

The Ridgemen countered with sophomore Josh Stella (Hillsdale College) and got four innings of no runs, not hits and one walk with four strikeouts in the start. However, Stella was forced to leave the game after taking a line drive of the elbow.

“He just took a ball on the outside of his throwing elbow, so it’s swollen up pretty good,” Ridgemen head coach Justin Dillard said. “He should be fine. We’ve got ice on it, so once the inflammation goes down, which on regular day’s rest, I’m assuming he’ll be fine.”

The night’s scoring kicked off in the second inning with the Ridgemen striking first. In the bottom half, sophomore Seth Hagan (Centre College) lead off with a double, after working a 2-0 count. Senior, and Ridgemen veteran, Casey Claflin (Shawnee State University) followed up by slicing the ball down the right field line into an open space, as the right fielder was playing closer to right-center. This allowed Claflin reach second with a stand-up double, while Hagan came around to score, putting the Ridgemen up 1-0.

“[I] figured he would try to come in and away, we saw he started throwing a good changeup away, so I didn’t want to get to the changeup. I wanted to hit him early,” Claflin said. “I was thinking ‘just anything to the right side.’ He left one up and away. I tried to stay within myself, not get too big, basically hit it right at the second baseman, hit a line drive over his head.”

The two teams then engaged in a pitching and defensive duel, and the Ridgemen’s lead held up until the top half of the seventh inning.

The seventh inning opened up with back-to-back base hits for the Salt Cats, a double for redshirt senior Shannon Baker (Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne) and a single for Nerz, putting runners on first and second. After a fielder’s choice got Baker out at third, but kept runners on first and second for the Salt Cats, Ferlenda stepped up and singled, bringing home Nerz to tie the game.

“I knew that I was swinging a hot bat in BP (batting practice) and I felt really good today,” Ferlenda said. “So I was just trying to get a fastball either in or out because I drive it on the outer part of the plate or pull the ball. I got the pitch, so I just took a hack at it and got the result I wanted.”

The Ridgemen and Salt Cats then dueled through the eighth and ninth innings, sending the game to extra innings.

During extra innings, each team got its chances, beginning in the 11th when the Salt Cats got a runner to third with two outs thanks to an error and a wild pitch. However, the Ridgemen worked out of the inning with a strikeout in the next at-bat.

The Ridgemen followed by getting a runner to third in the 12th inning in the form of senior TJ Lanning II (ASA College), who doubled and then advanced on a balk. But back-to-back swinging strikeouts ended the opportunity.

The Salt Cats finally broke through in the 13th, loading the bases after junior Tim Gorton (Eastern University) was hit by a pitch, Baker walked and Nerz singled. Junior Justin Clark (Lesley University) then hit one to the shortstop, who threw to second to begin a double play, but Clark reached first and the go-ahead run scored.

“It was my second or third time I had faced that pitcher,” Clark said. “I knew that he was working in with the fastball [and] away with the slider, so I was looking at jumping on a fastball early, getting something in the air. [It] kind of tailed away from me a little bit and I was just able to stay with it and punch it to the left side. The shortstop made a great play to keep it in the infield, but I’m just Mat Nerz was just able to have a great slide and break it up  so that we could come home with the win.”

Ferlenda completed the days scoring with a single, bringing home another run before the innings ended.

The Ridgemen would get a runner on in the bottom half of the 13th, but nothing more as the Salt Cats claimed the win.

The Salt Cats move to 2-1 on the season, while the Ridgemen fall to 0-2.

Sophomore Keven Mackintosh (Lamar Community College) tossed six innings in relief for the Ridgemen, surrendering two runs on four hits and one walk.

“Usually I’m a starter, so I just treat it as a start,” Mackintosh said. “That’s usually my plan and everything going through that with school just did the job for me. It helped me be a lot more mentally focused and mentally tough.”

Senior Kyle Sanford (Western Connecticut State University) also came in for relief for the Salt Cats, going four innings and letting up no runs, one hit and one walk with six strikeouts.

The Ridgemen will next play Sunday at 5 p.m. against the Olean Oilers at Basket Road Field.

The Salt Cats next game will also be Sunday, as they take on the Syracuse Spartans at Onondaga Stadium at 7 p.m.,