The magic number is down to one for the Cortland Crush to clinch a tie for its first New York Collegiate Baseball League Eastern Division title and two to win it outright as Luke Gilbert set a new career hit mark Thursday during a doubleheader split with the Sherrill Silversmiths at Greg’s Field.
Gilbert got two hits in the 3-2 opening win to surpass Wes Burghardt’s mark of 68 hits set during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Gilbert now has 70 hits between his 2015 season and this season.
Sherrill pounded out 15 hits in the nightcap as former Oneida High standout Mitch Cavanagh limited the Crush to three hits over six innings of work as the Silversmiths won 9-3.
Cortland is now 28-15 with three games remaining in the regular season. The Crush hold a two game lead over the Syracuse Junior Chiefs (26-7) who eliminated the Rome Generals form the playoff picture with a 7-3 triumph Thursday night. The Rome loss gave the Syracuse Salt Cats (21-21) third place and the final playoff spot. The Crush wrap up the home part of the season today with a 3 p.m. doubleheader against the Salt Cats at Greg’s Field. Both games will be seven innings in length. The regular season finale for Cortland is Saturday with a road trip to Rochester for a 7 p.m. contest.
Cortland 3, Sherrill 2: Gilbert was tied with Burghardt entering play Thursday and he stroked a single down the right field line in the bottom of the first inning to became the all-time hit leader. Gilbert’s hit followed an RBI single by Derek Martin that gave the Crush an early 1-0 lead. Gilbert added a lead-off single in the bottom of the fourth inning for his second hit in the game.
Cortland added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 3-0 advantage. T.J. Wegmann and George Haaland hit back-to-back double with one out for the second run. Haaland would score on a two-out single by Greg Mula which proved to be the game winner.
Clayton Jeffries (3-1) went six and one-third innings for the win. Jeffries allowed seven hits and walked six before leaving the game. Ryan Coulon and Michael Palos provided RBI singles in the top of the seventh as the Silversmiths closed to within 3-2, but they never tied the game up. Both seventh inning runs were charged to Jeffries as Jacob Kinney shut the door. Blake Demeter pitched a solid eighth inning for Cortland and Matt McCuen tossed the ninth inning to earn his fifth save of the season.
Alexander Veraska (2-2) went the distance for Sherrill. He scattered 10 hits and struck out two batters while hitting one batter.
Sherrill 9, Cortland 3: Sherrill dominated game two as Cavanagh played pitched for just the third time with the Silversmiths after joining the team late in the season. He is a junior at Salt Lake Community College after a solid high school career at Oneida.
Cavanagh really did not have trouble until the sixth inning when the Crush scored twice with the help of two Silversmith errors and Cavanagh hitting Paul Ludden with a pitch. David Murphy hit a sacrifice fly to plate Joey Assenza and Martin had an RBI double to make the score 7-2. Both those runs would be unearned against Cavanagh.
Sherrill took the lead in the top of the third inning as Mackey Williams hit a two-run homer to left-centerfield. After adding a run in the fourth, the Silversmiths plated three runs in the fifth as a single, two walks and two errors did most of the damage. The lead grew to 7-0 in the sixth inning before the Crush finally got on the scoreboard. After the Crush scored their two runs, Sherrill countered with two runs in the seventh for the 9-2 cushion.
Cortland scored its final run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Ludden had a one-out single. He moved to third base and two wild pitches. Patrick Messinger grounded out as Ludden scored from third base.
The NYCBL Western Division playoffs are more focused. Olean (38-6) clinched a playoff spot before the July 14 NYCBL All-Star game and have secured home field advantage for the entire playoffs as the Western Division Champions. Olean downed Genesee 9-3 Thursday knocking the Rapids out of the playoffs.
Wellsville posted a 15-3 win over Rochester Thursday. The Rapids and Hornell Dodgers are tied for second place with matching 21-22 records. Those two teams are just fighting for home field advantage for Tuesday’s one-game playoff between the second and third place teams to determine who will face the Oilers in the best-of-three division championship series that begins Wednesday.
Homer Central alumnus and former Cortland Crush slugger Zephan Kash was been named the Mansfield’s Spring Male Athlete of the Year.
Kash started 45 games at first base in his senior season with the Mountaineers and was one of the most feared batters in the line-up. The left-handed hitter led the team in home runs with eight and ranked sixth in the nation in walks per game at 0.91.
Kash got the season started with a walk-off home run to lift Mansfield past No. 3 Mercyhurst in February and followed that by belting three round trippers in a doubleheader against Post.
Kash totaled 41 hits, including 14 extra base hits, for a .325 batting average.