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.

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.

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