After an away doubleheader at Syracuse against the Spartans on Wednesday, the Cortland Crush turned around and hosted another doubleheader against the Spartans on Thursday.
Four games in two days is a lot for a team, let alone against the same team.“We’ve played these guys for four-straight games, so you really get to know the other team, sometimes it’s an advantage, sometimes it’s a disadvantage,” first baseman Sean O’Malley said.
The Crush split Thursdays doubleheader, winning game one 4-2 and falling in game two 13-3. “We gain two points from the win but we also gain nothing from the loss, it’s more so humbling, it’s a reality check,” second baseman Anthony Cieszko said, “we understand we’re first place in the division , but at the same time we need to make sure we have a good head on our shoulders.”
Cortland is now 20-11-1 on the season and is three points ahead of the Syracuse Salt Cats for first in the east division.
Pitching dominated in game one. Crush starter Brandon Shirley, fresh off an appearance in the NYCBL all-star game, had another strong start on the mound. Shirley went five and a third innings, allowing only two runs on five hits while striking out five. “My off-speed was on, my changeup was on, curveball was on, I knew I had to keep the ball low today,” Shirley said. “I’ve had a lot of confidence this season, I’m at an all-time high right now and you can’t take this game for granted because you know it can come back and bite you.”
With Shirley dominating on the mound, it allowed the offense to build a lead.
After base hits from Cieszko and O’Malley, Kam Holland hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Cieszko and made it 1-0 in the second.
In the fourth, the Crush made it 3-0 on RBI singles from O’Malley and Garrett Callaghan.
Cieszko then made it 4-0 in the fifth with a base hit that scored Alex Flock. “During BP I was just trying to keep my approach simple and I translated it to the game,” Cieszko said. “Baseball’s tough as it is, no need to make it tougher, I just got to stay within myself and think gap- to-gap.”
The Spartans (15-18) cut the lead to 4-2 in the sixth, but Garrett Bell took over on the mound and pitched a scoreless final one and two-thirds innings to secure the win. Cieszko finished the game 2-3 with an RBI while O’Malley also went 2-3 with a double and a run batted in.
The second game of the doubleheader didn’t fair well for the Crush. Cortland went down 4-0 in the top of the first and was unable to recover.
The Spartans used a seven run fifth inning to end a Crush comeback and ensure the win.
Cortland cut the game to 4-3 in the second. After a pair of runs in the first thanks to a Nick Pastore RBI-single and a double steal that allowed Dylan Nolan to add a run, Cieszko made it a one run game on a fielder’s choice that scored Max Flock.
However, Cortland was held to one base hit the rest of the way and fell 13-3. “We’ve been on such a roll lately, we’re going to end up dropping some games here and there,” O’Malley said, “I think it’s going to light a fire under us and hopefully we’ll come out (tomorrow) with a higher intensity.”
Callaghan finished game two 1-2 with a double and two walks.
The Crush return to action on Friday as the team hosts the Sherrill Silversmiths at 6 pm.
Michael Viveoros will make the start on the mound for Cortland. “He’s really been strong with them and he really dials in,” Cieszko said. “it really helps the fielders out and we get right back to the bats as soon as possible.”