With the East division title hanging in the balance, 18-year-old pitcher Garrett Bell was a pitch away from winning the Crush the division title.
Bell had runners on first and second and a 3-2 count to Rome’s Andrew Elcock. The closer landed a fastball on the outside corner for a called strike three and won the game for the Cortland Crush.
“I just wanted to come in, get the save and give us a clinch tonight,” Bell said. “I’m young, I’m coming out of high school, I don’t really know the college experience yet, but to clinch it feels nice.
The 7-6 victory over Rome gave the Crush their second East division crown in the teams six years of existence. This guarantees the Crush a first round-bye in the playoffs, which start on July 23rd for Cortland.
“It’s great, it’s something that I’ve never done in the three years that I’ve played summer ball, so it’s something special,” Stephen Bennett said.
Cortland has 19 base runners on the evening, working eight walks, six base hits and took five hit-by-pitches.
The Crush started the bottom of the first inning with four straight base hits. Garrett Callaghan doubled and then was driven in by Alex Flock. Flock now has 30 RBI’s on the season.
Bennett then mashed his fourth home run of the season, sending a missile over the right-center field wall to make it 3-0.
“I knew facing these guys I was going to get off-speed,” Bennett said. “They started me off with two sliders, and I got the fastball that I needed to get, and I didn’t miss it.”
Bennett reached base four times in the game, walking twice and being hit by a pitch to go along with his home run.
Despite the quick start, Rome hung around for the entire game. Rome answered with a run in the top of the second, but Cortland answered with an Anthony Cieszko walk with the bases loaded that scored Flock in the bottom half of the frame.
The teams traded runs until the Crush took a 7-3 lead in the fifth. Cieszko scored an errant throw to second on a stolen base attempt and Alex Babcock scored on Jack Lynch’s groundout.
Rome though slowly got back into the game, trimming the lead to 7-5 entering the ninth. Bell entered to pick up the save and, despite allowing one run, finished off the game for the Crush. He picked up his sixth save of the season.
“I enjoy it (the closer role) a lot, you come in, you got to shut the game down and if you do it’s really great,” bell said. “Just coming in and closing out gives a really good vibe for yourself.
Nick Pastore was the only Crush player with multiple base hits, going 2-3 with an RBI.
“We did struggle a little bit towards the end of getting away from our approaches,” Bennett said. “We should have stayed with our approaches and maybe we could have put up a little more and maybe the game wouldn’t have been as close.”
The Crush return to action on Friday as the team travels to Sherrill for a 5 pm showdown.
Cortland returns home for its regular season finale on Sunday at Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex. The Crush host Sherrill at 3 pm.