Brandon Shirley was given the start Thursday night as as the reeling Cortland Crush faced the visiting Rome Generals looking for a win, coming off two straight losses and needed to rebound.
The Crush hadn’t lost to the Generals all season. Shirley went out and delivered a masterful performance, allowing only one run on three hits in six strong innings and led Cortland to a 4-1 win.
“I felt fantastic,” Shirley said. “I was mixing my off-speed really well Coach (Ryan) Stevens was calling my changeup early, which kept the hitters off balance.”
“I’ve known him since he was in 10th grade and I’ve always thought really highly of his pitching skills,” pitching coach Ryan Stevens said of Shirley, the Candor native and current Ithaca College hurler. “We really use his changeup a lot. We work off of that; he can throw it for strikes and he doesn’t slow up on his arm speed.”
Shirley got just enough run support from his offense as well.
Nick Pastore and Alex Flock each hit home runs for the Crush (9-8-1) to power the offense, which mustered only four hits on the night. Pastore smashed a solo home run with one out in the bottom of the fourth that gave the Crush a 2-1 lead at the time. It was Pastore’s first home run as a member of the Crush.
“Got a 2-0 count, just saw a fastball low, the way I like it,” Pastore said. “It feels pretty good. I’m not used to hitting the ball over, so it feels good when you finally do.”
Flock mashed his second home run of the season an inning later. With two outs and Stephen Bennett on first, Flock obliterated a fastball over the right field wall and made it 4-1 Crush.
Jack Lynch drove in the opening run for the Crush, hitting a sacrifice fly to left field that brought Drew Boli home.
Shirley faced a jam in the third and fourth innings. He allowed runners to reach second and third in the third and allowed the lone run in the fourth.
However, Shirley navigated the turmoil, successfully getting out of the third inning jam and surrendering the lone run in the fourth without further damage being done.
“That helped me settle down; once I got out of that jam it helped me settle into a good rhythm,” Shirley said.
Garrett Bell and Gregg Scherrer pitched the final three innings for the Crush and shut out the Generals the rest of the way. Bell pitched two innings and allowed only one hit, while Scherrer pitched a hitless, scoreless ninth to get the save.
“They’re mature beyond their years,” Stevens said of the two relievers. “They attacked the zone and executed the game plan. They’re great kids and they come out and get their work in every single day.”
Cortland jumped to third in the in the NYCBL East Division standings with the win and is now 5-0-1 against Rome this season.
The Crush hit the road today, traveling to Houghton to face the Genesee Rapids in a doubleheader starting at 4 pm.