CORTLANDVILLE — The Cortland Purple Tigers kicked off their 2021 baseball season with an offensive outburst, sweeping a doubleheader against the Bishop Grimes Cobras, 16-3 and 17-7, Saturday at the Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex.
Max Gambitta led the charge for the Purple Tigers at the top of the order by going 5-for-6 with five runs, seven RBI, two doubles and three stolen bases across the two games.
At the bottom of the order, Kooper Knabe went 5-for-7 with three runs, five RBI and a steal, and Andrew Partigianoni went 4-for-8 with four runs, three RBI, a triple and three steals.
In game one, the Purple Tigers put it out of reach in just the bottom of the first inning. After allowing an RBI single to former Crown City Little League standout Jack Gutchess in the top half, the Purple Tigers scored eight runs in their turn at bat. They only mustered two hits in the inning, but they were extremely patient with Cobras starter Seth Murphy. He allowed five walks, four stolen bases, a hit-by-pitch and two wild pitches, and his defense committed a passed ball and an error. All told, the Purple Tigers sent 13 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first.
The Cobras sent Murphy out to the mound for the bottom of the second, and the results weren’t much better. He allowed four runs on five hits, a wild pitch and a hit batsman to make the score 12-1 Purple Tigers after just two innings.
The Purple Tigers tacked on three more runs in the fourth and another run in the sixth, while the Cobras could only scratch together two more runs in the fourth.
Tyler Blake and Caden Congdon were the only pitchers the Purple Tigers needed in the first game. Blake got the win going the first three innings with eight strikeouts and one run and three hits allowed, while Congdon threw the last four innings and picked up eight punchouts of his own.
Any hopes the Cobras had that the second game would be more competitive were quickly dashed. After Murphy (4-for-7, two runs, two RBI combined) tripled to lead off the game and scored on a sacrifice fly, the Purple Tigers sent nine batters to the plate in the first and third innings, scoring nine runs on eight hits in the process.
The Cobras tried to chip away at the deficit with one run in the third and two more in the fourth, but the final blow came in the bottom of the fifth when the
Purple Tigers posted their second eight-run inning of the day, tagging three Cobras pitchers for six hits, three walks and two errors while sending 13 batters to the plate.
Jason Carr got the win in the second game, going four innings and allowing four runs on seven hits while striking out five and walking one. Knabe pitched two innings and Luciano Devito pitched the seventh in relief.
In addition to their patience, discipline and clutch hitting, the Purple Tigers were able to capitalize on 10 Cobra errors — four in the first game and six in the second.
“We were fortunate to have some miscues on their end,” Purple Tigers coach Ben Albright said. “Our guys were disciplined. I really liked our approach today at the plate. I think being out here helps so much, being able to get on the beautiful turf here. It helps us get used to the elements.”
If there could be one criticism of the Purple Tigers, it was the deep pitch counts and not being able to pound the strike zone and force early contact despite substantial leads. But Albright isn’t too concerned just yet.
“The first time out for some of these guys on the hill, you never know what to expect,” Albright said. “You can try to replicate everything in practice… sometimes we’re not as efficient as we should be, but I think we’ve got some good arms and I’m looking forward to their progress throughout the season. I’m confident we’ll continue to get good outings.”
The Purple Tigers last played a competitive game on May 28, 2019, when they fell to Auburn in the NYSPHSAA Section III Class A quarterfinals. Losing the 2020 season to the coronavirus pandemic was disappointing, but it may actually have been a blessing in disguise.
“We’ve been chomping at the bit since that,” Albright said. “This group, last year, if we had a high school season, would have been very young. To not have that was tough for us looking back, but we were able to get some quality games this past summer. These guys showed up and put the work in, stepped up in the winter as much as they could, whether it was hitting sessions or weightlifting sessions. I think that’s going to pay off for us.”
The Purple Tigers (2-0) are back in action at 5 p.m. today when they visit Oswego in the front end of a home-and-home.
Homer 4, Phoenix 3
The Trojans edged Phoenix thanks to the pitching of Jed Brazo (4 2/3 IP, three strikeouts, one earned run), and the hitting of Jake Atkins (triple, two runs) and Rich Lambrecht (double, single).
Homer 9, New Hartford 7
Jake Calabro had four goals and an assist and Colin Perks made 11 saves to lead the Trojans to their second victory of the season.