Free passes doom Ridgemen in loss to Genesee

Senior Grant Myers (Monmouth College) went 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored for the Genesee Rapids, who defeated the Rochester Ridgemen 12-6 in New York Collegiate Baseball League action Thursday night at Basket Road Field.

“Just looking at pitches I can drive. They shifted on me, they came in on me on, I want to say, two at bats,” Myers said. “Just trying to hit it and taking some pitches where I know it would play into the shift. Trying to hit it where they’re not.”

Myers was one to two Rapids players to drive in three runs over the course of the game, with the second being senior Justin Carey (New England College). Carey knocked in his three runs on two hits in four at bats, also scoring twice.

The Rapids also benefited from free passes, drawing 12 walks against the Ridgemen pitching staff. Senior Adam Marston (Eastern Mennonite University) led the Rapids with four walks and did not see a strike until his fourth at bat, which came in the seventh inning.

The Rapids’ offense acted quickly in its scoring effort, plating two runs to open the game in the first inning. Sophomore Josh Hayner (Messiah College) led off the game with a single, coming around to score when senior Travis Ralls (Greenville College) doubled down the left field line. Ralls would not be on base for long, as Myers stepped to the plate and doubled into the right-centerfield gap to bring Ralls in.

The Ridgemen got a run back in the bottom half of the first, beginning with back-to-back hits for sophomore Sean Rooney (Point Loma Nazerene University), a double, and senior Christina Bitar (Regis University), a single, to put runners on the corners. The bases became loaded when junior Joshua Parks (University of Chicago) was hit by a pitch, allowing sophomore Seth Hagan (Centre College) to come to the plate and slap one on the ground to third base, breaking up the double play attempt by reaching first. Rooney scored on the fielder’s choice.

After both teams went scoreless until the fourth inning, the Rapids added five runs between the fourth and fifth innings (two in the fourth and three in the fifth).

In the fourth, the Rapids loaded the bases with a single for junior AJ Nitzschke (Nortwestern College) and walks to Carey and Marston. Senior John Zamites (Houghton College) singled home Nitzschke for the first run and Hayner followed with getting hit by a pitch, bringing in Carey.

In the fifth inning, Ralls tripled and Myers walked, then stole second, setting up Carey to double both runners home to put the Rapids up 6-1. Carey moved to third on a groundout, scoring on a wild pitch during Marston’s third walk of the game.

The Ridgemen scored two in the bottom of the fifth to pull back within three. Rooney walked to reach base and came around to score when Bitar doubled into the left-centerfield gap. A wild pitch advanced Bitar to third, with the following pitch putting Parks on with another hit by a pitch. Parks attempted to steal second, but was thrown out by Ralls, allowing Bitar to score on the throw.

However, the Rapids responded with three runs in the sixth inning to push the lead to 10-3. Myers contributed to the scoring with a one-out, two RBI single, plating Hayner and junior Zach Roberts (Eastern Mennonite University), who had both walked and advanced on a wild pitch. Myers then moved to second on a walk to Nitzschke and to third on a wild pitch. Myers crossed the plate on a single for Carey.

The two teams traded runs in the late innings, starting with an RBI single for senior TJ Lanning (Trinity College) in the eighth to score Parks. Parks had doubled to open the inning and moved to third when Hagan singled.

The Rapids put up their final two runs in the top of the ninth. Martson drew his fourth, and final, walk leading off the inning and got to second on a passed ball. Hayner then stepped to the plate and doubled to right field to bring Marston around. A groundout sent Hayner to third and a throwing error to first brought him in to score.

The Ridgemen managed to load the bases on walks to sophomore Brooks Pitaniello (Harding University), Rooney and Bitar, allowing Hagan to single home a run to get a comeback attempt started in the bottom of the ninth.

“I just try to be consistent every game with what I can do at the plate,” Hagan said. “New pitcher in pitched to Joshua Parks two fastballs up and a changeup. He started me off two fastballs up, so I thought a changeup was coming, I got it and luckily I was able to put it in play.”

Lanning then grounded into a fielder’s choice, bringing in Rooney. But, this is as far as the comeback would go, as the Rapids secured the final out for the victory.

Rapids’ head coach Joe Mina said some healthy returners have helped provide the team with some production.

“Some guys that just came off of the injury reserve were starting to produce, so that’s nice to see,” Mina said. “[There were] a couple starters tonight that were sidelined, so they’re starting to get into a groove.”

Dillard said a positive to take away from the game is the increased production from the offense.

“[I was] excited to see the at bats they were starting to piece together at the end,” Dillard said. “We haven’t been a team that gets a lot of hits, so if all of our runs are coming by free passes, it’s going to be difficult.”

Senior Victor Cavalieri (Houghton College) held the Ridgemen to three runs, four hits and three walks over four-and-one-third innings pitched in his Rapids debut.

“I felt like we swung the bat well tonight. [It] gave me a little more confidence on the bump,” Cavalieri said. “Pitching with a lead is always a big confidence booster.”

Cavalieri also struck out five in the start, four of which came by the swinging variety.

“I felt like my off-speed was working really well tonight,” Cavalieri said. “Staying on top of the ball, keeping it over the plate, throwing a lot of strikes helps get outs.”

Freshman Dominic Zingale (Lakeland Community College) pitched two-and-two-thirds scoreless and hitless innings in relief for the Rapids, giving up two walks and striking out three.

The Ridgemen fall to 5-16 on the season, while the Rapids improve to 10-14 and maintain a playoff spot.

The Rapids will next play Friday at home against the Olean Oilers at 7 p.m.

The Ridgemen will take on the Hornell Dodgers at home on Friday at 7 p.m.

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.

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