-Crush Beat Writer, Michael Knauff
The Cortland Crush traveled to Onondaga Community College on Thursday night to play the teams season opener in the NYCBL against the Syracuse Spartans.
The game was a pitchers duel throughout, with only three runs being scored between both teams. However, Syracuse used a two-run eighth inning to pull out a 2-1 win over Cortland to win the
first game of the 2019 season.
“A lot of guys put bats on the ball, a lot of balls were put in play, we just couldn’t find a hole,” senior catcher Dylan Nolan said.
The Crush were only able to manage two hits on the night against the Spartan pitching.
Despite the offensive struggles Cortland put a crooked number up on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning to jump out to an early lead.
Nick Pastore and Stephen Bennett drew back-to-back walks to begin the game.
The Crush pushed their run across the plate a batter later when Hayden Houts hit a ground ball to second. Syracuse was able to record the force out at second the retire Bennett, but the throw to first to get Houts was wide. Pastore was able to round third and take home with ease to give Cortland a 1-0 advantage.
It would be a pitcher’s duel from that point on.
Crush starter Jared Strait, making his first start in a Cortland jersey, was locked in from the beginning of the game. The senior pitcher from Lansing, New York pitched a one-two-three first inning, setting the tone early.
“Jared Strait started off great,” head coach Bill McConnell said, “liked his form, liked what he delivered out there.”
Strait allowed only one base hit in the second inning to Bryce Moore, but then got Andreas Garcia to ground into a six-four-three double play to end the frame.
The Cortland starter only allowed two more base hits over the next four innings, retiring seven straight Syracuse batters in the fourth, fifth and sixth at one point.
Strait finished the game going six innings, allowing no runs and three hits. He also struck out five and didn’t walk a batter while only throwing only 60 pitches.
Syracuse starting pitcher Mike Paciocco was equally as impressive after a shaky first inning. The Spartan starter allowed only one base hit all game, a triple to Dylan Nolan in the fifth inning, while walking four and striking out five in seven innings of work.
Nolan’s triple was the best chance the Crush has at adding some insurance runs. With one out and no one on in the top of fifth, Nolan ripped an 0-2 pitch to left-center field to record the first base hit of the game for Cortland.
“After watching the pitcher jiggle the ball in his glove, I saw fastball coming and set in stone on that and had a nice hit,” Nolan said.
The Crush eventually got the bases loaded on walks from Sean O’Malley and Jack Lynch, but couldn’t capitalize and left the inning without managing a run.
After a scoreless seventh inning, the Spartans mounted a rally.
Bryce Moore led the bottom of the eighth inning off with a walk and then advanced to second after Andreas Garcia was hit by a pitch.
Syracuse pushed the tying run across the plate a batter later. Eric Gatewood slapped a single into right field that allowed Moore to score from second and tie the game at 1-1.
Zac Legaretta then gave Syracuse the lead, hitting a sacrifice fly into right field which gave Garcia enough time to tag from third and make it 2-1 Spartans.
The Crush were unable to muster anything in the top of the ninth, going three up three down to end the game.
“We know the bats we have, gotta kind of get back into a rhythm, guys have been off for a while,” McConnell said.
Nolan and Anthony Cieszko were the only two Crush to record base hits on the night. Cortland drew four walks but struck out seven times as a team.
The Crush hit the road again on Friday night as the team heads to Rome to battle the Generals.
Zach Kemp out of Wells College will start for Cortland with first pitch set for 6:45pm.