On a special night when the Cortland Crush honored the memory of Greg Partigianoni on Greg’s Night on the diamond dedicated to him just a year ago, the game itself turned into something neither the Crush nor the visiting Syracuse Junior Chiefs will forget for a long time.
Josh Lopez delivered a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the 13th inning to end a five-hour, 16-minute marathon and give the Crush to an 18-17 walk-off victory Friday night in a New York Collegiate Baseball League Eastern Division game.
Cortland improves to 3-1 on the season with the win on Greg’s Field, named in memory of the late Partigianoni who previously coached for Cortland during the summer league. Syracuse falls to 1-2.
It looked like an easy win for Cortland after the Crush scored nine runs in the bottom of the first inning. Derek Martin and Joey Assenza each providing three-run doubles.
After both teams scored once in the second inning, Cortland plated three more runs in the third for a 13-1 cushion. Anthony Searles drove in Assenza with a double while Luke Gilbert and Andrew Taft supplied sacrifice flies.
That seemed more than enough to allow Nate Verst to pick up his first win. Verst pitched three solid innings, but he would not figure in the decision.
Syracuse began its astonishing comeback with three runs in the top of the fifth inning. Sam Little and Anthony Seminaris each it solo home runs. Zachary Smith singled, went to third base on a double by Conner Lafferty and scored on a wild pitch to make the score 13-4.
The Junior Chiefs really make things interesting by scoring six runs in the top of the eighth inning to close the deficit to 13-10. Tuesday night’s winning pitcher Shae Edmonds came on to pitch for the Crush in the seventh inning and walked two batters, but the defense turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Edmonds walked lead-off batter Lafferty to start the eighth. Steven Zimmerman, Jr. was hit by a pitch and a simple sacrifice bunt attempt lit the fuse for the visitors. Christobal Ruiz reached first base after the bunt along with the ball and a Crush fielder. The ball caromed off Ruiz as Lafferty came around to score on the errant throw.
The Crush then turned their third double play and it looked like the Syracuse rally would die out, but the Junior Chiefs got a lot more help before the third out was made Tristan Dacey and John Militano stroked back-to-back-singles. Errors helped plate three more runs and the Crush lead was down to three runs by the time a flyout ended the Syracuse time at the plate.
Of the six runs scored by the Junior Chiefs, only one was earned though that mattered little. With momentum on their side, Syracuse retired Cortland in order in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Matt McCuen came on looking to record the first Cortland save of the season. A two-base error and ground out got a Junior Chief to third base. Nicholas Ray hit a short fly ball behind first base that Lopez made a great catch, but tumbled to the ground allowing the runner to score and make the score 13-11. Back-to-back walks got the tying runs on base with two outs. Seminaris came to the plate and tied the game with a two-run single. McCuen ended the Junior Chiefs push with a strikeout.
The Crush went quietly in the bottom of the ninth and they were looking to regroup as their 12-run lead was gone and the game was heading into extra innings.
The Junior Chiefs tried to take the lead in the top of the 10th inning as Smith was hit by a pitch. He would be replaced by pinch runner Kevin Soriano who went to second base on a single by Zimmerman. Ruiz hit a slow roller that shortstop Greg Mula knocked down. Soriano rounded third base and started towards home plate when he realized Mula had stopped the ball. Mula scrambled to his feet and dashed to third base to tag Soriano out for the second out.
McCuen ended the Junior Chiefs threat with a strikeout.
Syracuse got two singles in the top of the 11th inning, but Militano was thrown out by Crush catcher Evan Moore before Seminaris hit his single. McCuen would use a quick move and pick Seminaris off at first base to end the inning.
The Junior Chiefs had another chance to take the lead in the top of the 11th. Alexander Ferlanda got a lead-off single and moved to second base on a balk by McCuen. With one out, Lafferty hit a single to put runners at the corners. Lafferty would break for second while McCuen was set in an attempt to get in a rundown and allow Ferlanda to score from third.
McCuen made the play perfectly as he ran at Lafferty while always keeping an eye on Ferlanda. Lafferty would be tagged out and the runner never got a chance to score. A ground ball ended the inning.
Ethan Moore and his younger brother Evan each singled in the bottom of the 11th, but the Junior chiefs turned a double play to end the Crush scoring threat.
The 13th inning saw Syracuse take its first lead of the game with two outs. Dacey was hit by a pitch and a walk would lead to a Seminaris double and a 14-13 lead and a throwing error on the play plated the 15th run and allowed Seminaris to reach third base. Ferlanda singled home Seminaris for a 16-13 lead. The seventh Crush error of the night allowed Ferlanda to score and the Junior Chiefs were in charge 17-13.
With one out in the bottom of the 13th, Cortland began the final comeback. Mula singled and back-to-back batters — Martin and Gilbert — were hit by pitches. Gilbert was hit in the helmet by a curve and let the game and went to the hospital for evaluation with Tom Taplin taking his place at first base.
Brody Santilli singled to score Mula and Martin as the crush pulled to within 17-15 with Taplin going to third base. Santilli stole second base and throwing error at second allowed Taplin to score and make it a one-run game. Clayton Jeffries greeted the seventh Syracuse pitcher of the night Joseph DiTorrice with a single to put runners at first and third. Jeffries stole second base.
DiTorrice got a strikeout for the second out of the inning before Lopez ended things by driving a 1-2 pitch into centerfield for the walk-off win. While DiTorrice took the loss, McCuen worked five innings of relief to earn the win.
Cortland is back in action this afternoon with a 3 p.m. game against the Rome Generals at Greg’s Field. The Crush will host the Capital City Reds from Ottawa, Canada in an exhibition doubleheader Sunday beginning at 3 p.m.