By JAKE HITT
The Cortland Crush celebrated their fifth year of existence in style Tuesday night, as offensive fireworks provided them with the best presents of all: a win and a record above .500.
Cortland continued its torrid pace with a 17-7 win over the Genesee Rapids (13-17) at Wallace Field. The win puts the Crush at 16-15, above .500 for the first time this season.
“It’s critical,” Cortland head coach Bill McConnell said. “The best teams are the hungriest and making that push right now.”
The Crush are now 6-1 since losing two straight to close out the month of June. During this seven-game stretch, the offense has come alive again, currently averaging over nine runs per game over this time.
First baseman Zach Kelley led the way, just as he did the last time Cortland scored over 15 runs in a game just four days ago against the Sherrill Silversmiths. Kelley finished 3-for-4 on the day with six RBIs, three runs scored with a monster grand slam in the bottom of the second inning and a double. He finished a triple shy of the cycle.
“It was just one of those days where everything was feeling good,” Kelley said.
The first baseman was not the only one seeing the ball well for Cortland. Multiple Crush batters recorded multihit games including Alex Flock, Joe Palmo, Julio Creazzola and Hayden Houts. Flock finished 2-for-5 with five RBIs, Palmo was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored and Creazzola was 2-for-5 with an RBI. With the exception of Kelley, none of these compare to the day Houts had at the plate, reaching base in all six plate appearances including three singles, a triple and two walks while also driving in two runs and scoring three times.
Cortland starter Jordan Christian earned the win with five innings, giving up five earned runs and three strikeouts. Jimmy Tatum surrendered one earned run with two strikeouts in two innings and shortstop Anthony Cieszko came in to pitch the final two innings.
Kelley said it felt good to finally be over .500 on the year, but that it wasn’t on the team’s mind too much.
“We haven’t really been paying attention to the record,” he said. “We knew we were a better team than what the record had shown for us. Just for the record to catch up to what we knew we were is a great feeling.”
He shared the same sentiment as Mc- Connell as to how important it is for the team to hit its stride so late in the season as it battles for a playoff berth.
The Crush are currently sitting in fourth place, but ate only a game and a half behind the first-place Onondaga Flames. McConnell does not believe his team will get complacent and still has room to grow.
“The whole season hasn’t been easy,” he said. “We were and can be our own worst enemies. But when you find that confidence, that sync and that team camaraderie it will carry you through the hard times.” McConnell said obviously not every game will be 17-7 and that a 2-1 or a critical end-of-season game is soon to come.
“We’ve built that chemistry now, the guys are enjoying the game, they have confidence in each other and are executing together,” McConnell said.
He praised the efforts of players like Houts, Kelley and Palmo, and said that the way his team can improve is by being consistent and “executing flawlessly when called upon.”
The Crush will host the Syracuse Spartans today and the Rome Generals Thursday in a pair of 5 p.m. games on Wallace Field.