Though Derek Martin and Anthony Searles provided the offensive pop Saturday, it was still a nail-biting finish in the first meeting of the 2016 season between the Cortland Crush and New York Collegiate Baseball League Eastern Division newcomer Rome.
Martin and Searles each went 2-for-4 as the Crush built an early 9-1 lead only to have the Generals bring the tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth before Cortland prevailed 9-5.
The Crush have won four straight games since the 7-3 season opener loss at Sherrill on Memorial Day to stand at 4-1 after one week of league play. Rome falls to 1-2 with the loss.
Pitcher Stephan Witkowski made his first start of the season and allowed just three hits and no runs for Cortland over the first three innings. Witkowski would leave the game with a 7-1 lead after six innings. He allowed five hits, walked two and struck out three.
The lone run allowed by Witkowski was unearned after Aaron Previsky’s lead-off double to start the Generals’ fourth inning. Previsky moved to third base on an error and scored on a fielder’s choice.
Cortland took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning and pushed the advantage to 3-0 in the third. The College of Brockport senior Paul Ludden walked to start the third inning for the Crush. Martin hit a triple with one out to score Ludden and he crossed the plate when Searles singled.
The Crush added three more runs in the fourth as Brody Santilli singled with one out. Joey Assenza reached base on an error and both runners runners moved up to second and third on a wild pitch. Ludden, a Cicero-North Syracuse grad, grounded out as Santilli scored. David Murphy hit a single that allowed Assenza to cross home plate. Martin singled and Searles drove in Murphy with a single.
Greg Mula hit a single and continued on to third base thanks to an error in the outfield with one out in the fifth for the Crush. Santilli hit a sacrifice fly that allowed Mula to score for a 7-1 cushion.
Jacob Kinney came on for Witkowski in the top of the seventh inning and struck out the side as the Generals could not touch him.
George Haaland made his first hit of the season memorable as Cortland increased its advantage to 9-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning. Ethan Moore reached on an error before Haaland belted a pitch over the scoreboard in left field for a two-run homer.
Cody Shelton made his Cortland debut and followed Kinney’s strong effort with a 1-2-3 inning on the mound in the eighth inning.
The game moved to the ninth inning and, with memories of Friday night’s 18-17 win over the Syracuse Junior Chiefs in 13 innings after leading 13-1 still in their heads, Cortland needed to withstand another comeback bid.
Three walks and two hit batters loaded the bases and forced in two Rome runs as Clayton Jeffries could not find the strike zone. William Ginsberg came to the mound and was greeted by a Randy Torres single to plate the third Rome run before the first out arrived when Ginsberg got a strikeout.
Marcus Begg singled home the fourth run of the inning as the Generals trailed 9-5 with bases still loaded. Ginsberg then whiffed James Park and got a flyball by Previsky, ending the game as the Crush celebrated the victory.
— Sunday’s exhibition doubleheader with the Capital City Reds from Ottawa, Canada was washed out and will not be made up.It will be a busy week for Cortland as the Crush travel to Onondaga Community College to face the Syracuse Salt Cats tonight at seven o’clock before a trip to Rome Tuesday for a 7:05 p.m. contest. Cortland will host the Salt Cats at 6 p.m. Wednesday on Greg’s Field before a 3 p.m. exhibition doubleheader with the Capital City Reds Thursday.