PREBLE – Determined and resilient would be the two best words to describe the Cortland High baseball team.
After his team fell behind host Homer 4-0 Wednesday at Preble Park, Purple Tiger head coach Ben Albright made a pitching change and the Cortland bats came alive. James Lane hit a sacrifice fly to score Jake Prunier with the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning and Duff Steve belted his second solo home run of the game for the 6-4 OHSL Freedom National Division victory over the Trojans. Cortland is now 2-0 in league and overall play. Homer falls to 0-2 in league and overall action.
The pitching change was bringing Caleb Thompson to the mound in the third inning as starter Noah Barber gave up four runs in the first two innings. The sophomore threw over 100 pitches in the varsity debut, but allowed just four hits, walked four batters and struck out seven.
“I was just trying to help my team win,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t worried. I was perfectly fine because I knew we could finish.”
“Our team never gives up,” Steve said. “Caleb pitched outstanding today. He got the job done. We always hustle, we get after it from sophomores to seniors.
“I was just sitting fastball,” he added about his centerfield shots. “I just like to win. I don’t like losing.”
Homer grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Casey Hayes reached on an error and Jackson Brazo followed with a home run over the tall right field wall.
The Trojans made it 4-0 in the second inning. Andrew Thompson (2-for-2) led off with a double. Hayes had a one-out single that would score Thompson After stealing second base for the second time in the game, Hayes scored on a two-out single by Joe Tummino (3-for-4).
Tummino was effective for the first four innings on the mound for the Trojans. He did allowed a solo home run to Lane with two out in the third inning which helped start the Cortland rally. The Trojan junior pitched a scoreless fourth inning, but back-to-back walks to Jake Prunier and Lane to start the top of the fifth inning spelled the end of his day Tummino gave gave three hits and three walks while striking out eight batters.
Jason Haselkorn entered the game. A wild pitch allowed Prunier to move to third base and Lane advanced to second base. Alex Babcock grounded out, but Prunier will score and Lane went to third base on the play. An errant pick-off throw to third allowed Lane to score as Cortland closed to within 4-3. Steve (2-for-3) hit the first pitch he saw from Haselkorn over the centerfield fence to tie the game at 4-4.
Homer had a chance in the bottom of the sixth inning as Tummino singled with one out and Ben Gravel singled with two outs to put runners at the corners. Caleb Thompson got a flyball to end the Homer threat.
The Purple Tigers got a break to start the top of the seventh inning when Prunier’s flyball to right field was dropped and he ended up at second base. Prunier moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Lane for a 5-4 lead. Steve hit a 2-2 pitch over the centerfield fence again for the 6-4 cushion.
Homer got the tying runs on base in the bottom of the seventh. Neil Malakar walked and Haselkorn was hit by a pitch. Caleb Thompson got a pop foul out for the first out and he closed out the game with back-to-back strikeouts to seal the Purple Tiger win.
Albright was pleased with his team’s never say die attitude. The Purple Tigers only had five hits, but took advantage of four Homer errors.
“Great team win and a great first win for Caleb,” Albright said. “He threw the ball hard and he threw it by people. He was locked in. Caleb started a little slow, but he got it done. With this team, nobody gives up, everybody is behind
“We were getting guys on, it was just a matter of time before we would score,” he continued. “James got us going and on the board with his home run. Duff’s first home run tied things up and that second one was some nice insurance, we definitely needed it.”
Albright also had praise for Homer.
“This was a much better team than we saw Monday,” he said. “We knew that coming in. I was nervous when we were down 4-zip, but our kids battled back.”
“We played better today,” Homer coach Robert Nasiatka said “Our pitchers did better. You have to keep pressure on the other team and we didn’t do that today. We were up 4-0 and we left 13 runners on base. Bottom line is WE lost that game today. It stings, but it’s just two of 20 games and we’ll get back at it tomorrow.”
Homer will look for that first win this afternoon as Tully comes to Preble Park for a 4:30 non-league game. Cortland returns to action Friday when East Syracuse-Minoa comes to Greg’s Field at 3 p.m.