The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

May 6, 2012

Falcons hand GV first ‘L’

Mustangs recover for split of South County doubleheader

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — It’s not often when a baseball game ends that both coaches are pleased with the outcome.

But, after Jefferson and Grand Valley split a doubleheader Saturday at Cotton Field, with the Falcons ending the Mustangs’ perfect season with an 11-2 win in the first game the Mustangs avenging that loss with a 6-3 win the second, both coaches saw plenty of positives.

“I think we got what we needed, we got pitchers work,” Jefferson coach Scott Barber said. “Maybe take it like (GV coach) Russ (Bell) says, a loss to be a positive in this situation. We’re not so bad as we all think we are.

“I think this is one day we both looked for seeing some pressure situations and those situations built on the defenses in both games and you just take advantage of that offensively and that’s where you get your runs in high school baseball.”

Bell agreed that his team, despite dropping its first contest of the season but still finishing the year an outstanding 25-1, got exactly what it needed headed into next week’s tournament.

“I feel like this kind of baseball is good for both teams going into the tournament,” he said. “It helps us prepare. You always want to play top competition coming into the tournament and I think that was accomplished for both of us, so that makes for a good day.”

In the first game, it was Jefferson (17-6) taking advantage of some rare Mustang defensive blunders to put runs on the board.

Trailing 1-0 in the third, Scott Davidson singled to left and advanced

to second on an Ethan Pawlowski bunt, which was misplayed, allowing both runners to advance.

Then a bunt single by Chase Stowe, and throwing error, got Jefferson on the board. Joey Piscsalko followed with a sacrifice fly to left, allowing Pawlowski to score.

Andy Santiago doubled to left, scoring  and Ryan Hayes followed with a bloop single to left that allowed Santiago to come home, giving Jefferson a 4-1 lead.

“I think we were trying to speed things up and Jefferson being aggressive obviously pushed that,” Bell said. “On a few of those bunts we took a peak at the lead runner when we shouldn’t have instead of making the plays.”

The Falcons tacked on five more runs to put the game away in the sixth. Kyle Ashburn walked, Davidson singled and Powlowski was hit by an A.J. Henson pitch to load the bases before Stowe delivered a bases clearing double to left field.

He later scored on an error and Ryan Hayes brought in Joey Piscsalko with a sacrifice fly to center.

That was more than enough run support for the Jefferson pitching staff.

Cole Erdel allowed just five hits and two runs during with 5.2 innings of work, striking out two and walking one.

“That’s been Cole all year,” Barber said. “He pounded the strike zone, worked through some things and had some good stuff today. He can go a little better but he’s a good athlete and a good competitor so he works through a lot of things.”

Brice Comp came on to throw the final 1.1 innings, not allowing a run.

The win was particular special for Barber as it was his 200th as coach of his alma mater, where he also starred as a player.

Barber, who credits his assistant coaches as well faculty and community support for his success, said numbers such as 200 wins aren’t things that he thought about when he started coaching.

“You don’t really think about it,” he said. “We’ve got such a great program here from the little kids playing ball to the high school kids the facilites we have to use and the baseball mentality of the community so that part is easy.

“They buy into what we want to put out there as coaches. So I couldn’t ask for a better place to coach. It’s nice the way everything came together. You win a good game against a good opponent at a good time in the year. All bonuses.”

Following the excitement for Barber’s accomplishment, as well as senior day festivities for the Falcons, and the disappointment in GV’s first loss of the season, the Mustangs were able to gather themselves to bounce back in the second game.

Similar to how the Falcons used GV’s mistakes to collect a win in the first game, the Mustangs took advantage of Jefferson’s defensive miscues to score all six of their runs in the fifth inning.

As Kurtis Fusco seemed to be cruising, having thrown 4.2 innings of shutout baseball and already gotten two outs, GV’s offense heated up.

Kyle Orgovan drew a two-out walk and as Kyle Hodge looked to be caught stealing third, catcher Nick Stranman’s throw went into no man’s land in left field allowing Hodge to score.

Mitchell Lake followed with a single then an error on a Henson ball hit to short loaded the bases.

Starting pitcher Jeromy Rockafellow helped his own cause with a two-run double to center and Adam Moodt, who took the loss in the first game, brought home two more with a triple down the right field line.

Mason Berkey brought Moodt home in the next at-bat and when the inning finally ended Jefferson found itself down, 6-1.

“We’re both very good ball clubs, that’s what it takes, taking advantage of mistakes,” Bell said. “This time they gave us this now we had to make them pay for making mistakes.

“Anytime you wait this long to have your first loss you’re always interested to see how the kids are going to react and obviously they reacted very positively and that was one thing they said, obviously we hate losing and we don’t want to do it again.”

Barber admitted it’s difficult to come back from an inning when you allow six unearned runs.

“I’m sure Russ talked about it in the first game,” he said. “Unearned runs and you have a close game, you don’t have an 11-run game.

Unearned there and we might win a 2-1 game. We  pitched and played, except for that one inning, well enough to win. It’s tough mentally on a pitcher. It’s tough mentally coming back, it puts pressure on you at the plate.”

Jefferson gained a 1-0 advantage when Santiago hammered a ball over the centerfield wall at Cotton Field.

Barber said he hopes that ball will spark the senior No. 3 hitter going into next week.

“I hope he does (have more confidence), he’s got some work to do,” he said. “He’s not where he needs to be. He’s a good hitter no matter what, but he’s not where he needs to be and not where we need him to be for tournament.”

The shot was Santiago’s fourth of the year.

Bell admitted to being disappointed about not maintaining the undefeated season, but believed the Mustangs will benefit from playing the All-American Conference champion Falcons as well as showing they can bounce back from a loss.

“We knew these guys were going to come and play good baseball, they’re a real good team,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s any consolation in a loss, but the biggest thing is when you’re undefeated and you lose for the first time you need to learn to bounce back.”

Getting the win for GV in the second game was Rockafellow, who threw a complete game, striking out seven and walking five while allowing three runs (two earned).

The Mustangs tournament begins on Tuesday in the Division sectional final when they host the winner of the Cardinal-Berkshire game.

Jefferson still has remaining regular season games, but begins postseason play on Friday when it hosts the winner of the Conneaut-Harvey game in a sectional final.

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