Clutch hitting gives Ridgemen first back-to-back wins of season

Junior Joshua Parks (University of Chicago) delivered a two-run double in the seventh inning, giving the Rochester Ridgemen the lead for good in a 5-1 win over the Genesee Rapids in New York Collegiate Baseball League action Thursday night at Basket Road Field.

The Ridgemen loaded the bases in the seventh thanks to a walk to junior Dillon McTague (Colorado Christian University), a single for freshman Jonathan Sabino (Coppin State University) and a walk to senior Christian Bitar (Regis University). This brought Parks to the plate with two outs. After fouling off his first two pitches, Parks was able to poke the ball into right field, bringing in both McTague and Sabino.

“Coming up with the bases loaded, you never want to leave them empty, especially in a tied ballgame,” Parks said. “So [I] came up looking for a fastball to hit, got one [and] missed it. [I] saw another one, it was probably out of the zone, missed it again, and then just tried to grind it out. I’ve struggled with some strikeouts recently and in the last couple of games I’ve tried to turn that around. I saw another fastball, got a little out in front and got it off the cap, but it fell in.”

Sophomore Daniel Smith (University of Chicago) started on the mound for the Ridgemen, holding the Rapids to one run on five hits and five walks, while striking out four in six-and-two-thirds innings.

“It was a great team win. I was just trying to throw strikes this time, which I’ve been struggling with recently,” Smith said. “I did it and the defense made some plays behind me.”

The Rapids took an early lead, going up 1-0 in the third inning. Sophomore Josh Hayner (Messiah College) led off the inning with a triple to right field, setting up an opportunity which junior AJ Nitzschke (Northwestern College) later took advantage of. With one out in the inning, Nitzschke stepped to the plate and drove a sacrifice fly into center field, allowing Hayner to score easily.

But, the Ridgemen responded in the bottom half of the third inning, adding a run to tie the game. Junior Connor Dunn (University of Puget Sound) reached base with a lead-off walk, advancing to second on a wild pitch and third on a groundout to the shortstop. This gave senior TJ Lanning (Trinity College) the chance to hit a sacrifice fly to right field, plating Dunn to tie the game.

It took all the way until the seventh for the tie to be broken, but Parks’ double did the job. But, the Ridgemen were not done scoring.

In the eighth inning, the Ridgemen added two insurance runs to create some breathing room. Sophomore Andrew Bayard (Westmont College) started off with a single to right field, followed by a single for Dunn. The runners moved to second and third on a sacrifice bunt, bringing up Lanning. He worked a 2-2 count and slapped the next pitch into center, with both runners coming around to score.

The Rapids got a runner to third in the ninth, but could not drive them in as the Ridgemen secured the victory.

Ridgemen manager Justin Dillard said it was the team’s best game of the year and most complete performance.

“That has to be one of the best wins we’ve had all year as far as just playing a clean game,” Dillard said. “Obviously, pitching, limiting to one run, playing great defense, stringing together two at bats with really two strikes. Strikeouts have been something where that’s been a third of our outs for the season. So two-strike hitting was, I believe, the difference in the game.”

Rapids head coach Joe Mina said the game came down to lack of offense for his team.

“We didn’t hit tonight, left a lot of guys on base. We’ve been doing that this past week,” Mina said. “Team’s go through that. I have to give it to the Ridgemen, they pitched well tonight and they beat us fair and square.”

The Ridgemen offense found success, despite not recording a base hit between the second and sixth inning, thanks to the Rapids’ starting pitcher, senior Victor Cavalieri (Houghton College).

Cavalieri held the Ridgemen to one run on one hit and four walks in six innings, striking out three.

“A lot of off-speed today, the curveball was on [and] fastball was running really well,” Cavalieri said. “So the combination of those two pitches kept batters off-balance today.”

The Ridgemen improve to 7-20 on the year, while the Rapids’ record drops to 12-18.

The Ridgemen will play Friday on the road against the Sherrill Silversmiths at 5 p.m.

The Rapids next game will be Friday at 5 p.m., hitting the road for a three-game set against the Wellsville Nitros.

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