SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
After defensive mistakes cost them on Tuesday against the Riverside Beavers, the Geneva Eagles needed to focus more on the task at hand Wednesday afternoon as they visited the Lakeside Dragons in Premier Athletic Conference action.
They did so impressively, committing only a single error of their own while taking advantage of a couple huge miscues by the Dragons, leading to a 5-3 Geneva win.
“Our defense won this game for us today,” a pleased Geneva coach Justin Drapp said. “That is what will happen when you get good pitching, too. We didn’t have a good day yesterday, but today things worked out well for us. We made the basic plays, and we worked together as a team. We did have one bad inning, but we never threw in the towel and did what it took to minimize the damages.”
The strong pitching Drapp referred to came in form of right-hander Nick Pae.
After a shaky start, when Lakeside scored its first run on a sharp single to left by Nick Meola, Pae gave up a shot to Jared Parsons. Shortstop Connor DiGiacomo snared it and tossed to second baseman Ryan Nappi for a forceout, but the throw was not in time to get Parsons. However, Meola slid into Nappi in too hard according to the umpire, interfering with the throw to first.
Parsons was called out to complete the odd doubleplay, and Pae was able to shut down two other Dragon rallies and then pretty much handled the Dragons the rest of the way. He ended the game with two of his three strikeouts.
“We’re improving,” Drapp said. “We are working to get to where we want to be to start tournament action. If we play good defense, we can win some games.”
Lakeside starter Austin DiBell was the victim of a couple plays that could have been made that proved to be costly.
Nappi reached base leading off the second when his chopper in front of the plate eluded DiBell for an error. David Smalley delivered the first of his two sacrifice bunts, and Nappi moved to third on a passed ball. Pae sent a grounder to second to plate the first Eagle run. Steve Jewel blooped a hit to left center, stole second and came home on a double to left by Eric Juncker, giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead after two innings.
Lakeside manufactured a pair of runs to retake the lead in the third. Caleb Garcia walked, moved up on a bloop to right center by Matt Rocco and Pae issued a walk to load the bases with one out. Parsons ripped a shot toward the hole in left center, but DiGiacomo snared the ball, fired to second for one out.
By the time the dust cleared, Garcia scored and Rocco raced around to the plate as well.
Other than a ringing double to right center in the sixth by DiBell, though, the Dragons (4-13, 1-11 in PAC) were unable to muster any offense against Pae (2-3).
“The bottom line today was that we gave up zero earned runs after the first inning and lost,” Lakeside coach Andy Kiphart said. “Errors are from a lack of concentration. A missed grounder in front of the plate, a force out at third that isn’t completed because of a dropped throw, those kind of things will kill you every time.”
“The key is to not let a single mistake turn into two or three. Everyone makes mistakes on the field and in life. We want to learn to minimize those mistakes, to handle adversity when it comes along, as it will, and come out a winner. We just haven’t learned that as much as we need to.”
Defense was solid for the Eagles (6-11, 5-9 in PAC) as Lakeside made good contact with the ball but didn’t get those hits to fall in. Geneva got second double play in the second to halt a budding Lakeside threat.
DiBell led off by reaching on a throwing error and was bunted to second by Shawn Gilbert. Nick Senita sent a hot grounder to left, moving DiBell to third, and Jared Zeman laced a grounder to short. The throw to first got Zeman, but the relay from Smalley to Dan Camplese at home also nailed DiBell, and that was the last serious threat from the Dragons.
Steve Jewel, Camplese and Eric Juncker each had two hits for Geneva, and leadoff man Brandon Kovach, reached all four times he batted.
Kelly is freelance writer from Jefferson.