Stellar pitching leads Ridgemen past Rome

by Mike DeSanto

Sophomore Josh Stella (Hillsdale College) held the Rome Generals to two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks in seven innings, earning the 4-2 win for the Rochester Ridgemen in New York Collegiate Baseball League action.

“We had one little shaky inning there, but [I] felt like I was getting ahead of guys and executing pitches,” Stella said. “We played good defense behind me again. I felt good out there and it was just a big win.”

Stella, a right-hander, struck out eight hitters over those seven innings, giving him the second-most strikeouts on the team with 21. Senior Tanner Pruett (Crown College) leads the Ridgemen with 26 strikeouts.

“Just getting ahead, being able to mix my pitches and throw all three pitches for strikes was huge,” Stella said.

Stella also had a balanced fly out to ground out ratio, forcing six fly outs and five ground outs.

Ridgemen head coach Justin Dillard said Stella can always be counted on by his teammates to stay in the game mentally, not matter the situation.

“He’s just a competitor. He likes to toe the rubber, look down and not allow anybody to beat him,” Dillard said. “Whether he has good stuff that day, bad stuff that day, it doesn’t matter. He’s mind strong.”

Senior Casey Claflin (Shawnee State University) entered in the eighth inning, keeping the Generals scoreless and hitless while walking three and striking out two over two innings to earn the six-out save.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth, when the Ridgemen broke through. Junior Josh Parks (University of Chicago) singled to centerfield to open the inning and advanced to second when sophomore Seth Hagan (Centre College) walked. The Ridgemen then executed a double steal, but the throw from home went wide of the third baseman, rolling into foul territory and allowing Parks to score the first run of the game, while Hagan reached second safely.

However, the Generals answered back in the fifth inning with a pair of runs to take the lead. Junior Carmine Giordano (Franklin Pierce University) led off the inning with a double, but was forced out on a fielder’s choice, though junior Caleb Kerbs (University of Maine Orono) was safe at first. This set up freshman Jake Balderston (Western New England College) for a game-tying RBI triple into the right-centerfield gap. Balderston scored in the next at bat, which resulted in a sacrifice fly out to centerfield for freshman Vincent Martin (University of Massachusetts-Lowell).

“Honestly, I was looking for a fastball,” Balderston said. “[He] threw me a pretty good one, [I] tried to get the barrel on it, hit it hard somewhere. They were playing me a little shallow, I’m not a guy who hits a lot of bombs, I’m not a big guy, but it was nice to hit one in the gap and score that run.”

But, the Ridgemen were not kept silent for long, as they responded in the bottom of the half to tie the game. Sophomore Brooks Pitaniello (Harding University) drew a walk, his second of the game, to start off the inning. Sophomore Sean Rooney (Point Loma Nazarene University) then stepped to the plate and struck a double into the right-centerfield gap, with Pitaniello speeding around the bases to score the game-tying run all the way from first.

“I just got a pitch to hit and put a good swing on it,” Rooney said. “I hit it, I was like ‘oh shoot, that ball’s in the gap.’ I did what I could and luckily it worked out.”

The Ridgemen’s third, and eventual game-winning run, came in the seventh inning. Parks got on thanks to a single with two outs, stealing second with Hagan at the plate. Hagan then grounded the ball to third base, seemingly spelling the end of the inning. However, the throw to first bounced into the turf, getting by first base and giving Parks the opportunity to score as the go ahead run.

Senior Ethan Luna (Southwestern University) added a pinch hit, RBI single, dropping the ball in between the shortstop and left fielder, in the eighth inning to plate freshman Jonathan Sabino (Coppin State University). Sabino had previously tripled to lead off the inning.

The Ridgemen then locked down the ninth, despite the Generals getting two runners on, to secure the victory.

Junior Tyler Crane (Nichols College) got the start on the mound for the Generals, pitching four-and-one-third innings with two runs (one earned), one hit and five walks surrendered, striking out three.

“I’m not normally one for walking a bunch of guys,” Crane said. “That was a huge part of not executing on the mound. I still kept it to a run, but at the end of it, it didn’t help our cause.”

Crane said the walks stemmed from difficulty executing his usual strategy.

“I’m more of a down in the zone kind of worker,” Crane said. “[I] wasn’t getting those calls, so I kept trying to pound it, try to get those calls, and then I started skipping balls. I just wasn’t happening, so I had to try to change my approach when I got on the mound.”

Dillard said the team was able to build upon previous issues and put together what was necessary for the win.

“Putting the ball in play with two strikes, that changed the game,” Dillard said. “So [Parks] in the seventh had a great at bat, extended an at bat deep into a count, put a ball out into left-centerfield, ended up getting to second and on the wheel play stole third, they threw it into left field and gave us the lead. Then in the last inning, all three balls put into play were [with] two strikes.”

The Generals’ head coach, Matt Burns, said his team did not perform well in any way, allowing the Ridgemen to take the win.

“It wasn’t very good. We didn’t come out ready to win,” Burns said. “We came out ready to play, but not ready to win, didn’t execute any facet of the game and that’s what happens. You lose.”

The Ridgemen improve to 5-14 on the season, while the Generals fall to 8-9.

The Ridgemen will next play on Wednesday when they hit road to take on the Syracuse Spartans at 5:15 p.m.

The Generals will travel to Wellsville Thursday to take on the Nitros at 5 p.m.

www.massagemetro.com/shop/, http://forhealthylives.com