By Paul Gotham
ROCHESTER, NY – For the second time in as many post-season outings, Dylan Sheffer (Penfield, NY/ Penfield) fashioned a gem as the Monroe Community College Tribunes (33-13) opened the NJCAA East District Tournament with a 4-2 victory over the Rockland County Community College Hawks (21-16), Saturday morning on Tribunes Field.
Sheffer held the Hawks in check for seven and pitched into the ninth for his fifth win of the season and second in the last eight days.
“I knew he was going to throw strikes,” commented Monroe head coach Mike Kelly. “On our field, with our defense, you get a guy who’s not going to walk anybody, and he gives us a chance to win.”
After giving up a lead-off hit in the second, Sheffer retired the next eight including one of three double plays turned by the Tribune infield for the game.
“Those were clutch ground balls when we needed them,” Sheffer noted. “We’ve been turning double plays all year. It makes it easy for me.”
Monroe jumped to an early lead when Spencer Scorza (Penfield, NY/Penfield) drilled a two-out home run in the bottom of the first.
“He gave me a good pitch to hit,” Scorza noted. “That was a huge momentum swing for us.”
Last weekend Scorza managed just two base knocks with many well-hit balls finding gloves. He erased some frustration in his first at bat this weekend taking a two-strike pitch opposite and clearing the fence in right center.
“Last week was frustrating,” Scorza recalled. “I tried to make too much happen at once because the ball wasn’t falling in.”
Vinny Bomasuto (Dunkirk, NY/ Dunkirk) started the spurt with a single into center field that got by the Rockland centerfielder allowing him to move to second.
“These types of games it’s important to go up early,” Kelly added. “It puts pressure on the other team.”
Monroe added two more in the third. Scorza reached on a walk. Jalen Dennis (Rochester, NY/ Aquinas Institute) kept the inning alive with two outs. After falling behind one-and-two in the count, the sophomore infielder worked a free pass.
AJ Kehlenbeck (Oakfield, NY/ Oakfield-Alabama) made good on the opportunity and caught the Rockland outfield playing deep blooping a double into left center field plating Scorza from second and Dennis from first.
“Jalen extended the inning,” Kelly explained. “That was a good at bat that doesn’t get in the scorebook. He was behind in the count and fouled off a bunch of pitches and extends the inning.”
Rockland threatened in the fifth, and it was Kehlenbeck’s arm which delivered for the Tribunes. The Hawks put the first two on in the frame and looked to advance the runners with a sacrifice bunt. When the attempt failed, Kehlenbeck came up throwing.
“Naturally when you’re a runner and there’s a sac bunt, you’re going to take an over-aggressive secondary lead,” Kelly explained. “We tell our guys since day one on a missed bunt attempt, we’re going to pickoff.”
Kehlenbeck erased the runner at first. Sheffer induced a ground ball from the next batter, and the Trib infield went around the horn – Dennis to Danny Mendick (Pittsford, NY/ Pittsford Mendon) to Scorza for the inning-ending double play.
Rockland scored their two in the eighth, but Kehlenbeck kept the Hawks in check. Victor Sanchez (Haverford, NY) knocked a two-out, bases loaded single through the right side of the infield bringing home Nicholas Gamboli (Stony Point, NY) and Nickolas Kulbaba (Suffern, NY) on the play.
With runners on the corners, Rockland looked to push across another run, but Kehlenbeck’s arm again denied the Hawks. The sophomore took an outside pitch and fired to first catching Sanchez wandering from the bag. Scorza and Brad Kaczka (Pittsford, NY/ Pittsford Sutherland) caught Sanchez in a rundown, and the inning was over.
Bomasuto took over with one on in the ninth. The right-hander got a ground ball for the final double play of the game and struck out the final batter for his second save of the year. Bomasuto closed out last weekend’s regional championship with a five-out save.
“This game was really on our pitching and our defense,” Scorza commented. “It’s been like that the whole year.”
Sheffer went the distance, scattered six hits and stranded 12 base-runners last week as Monroe opened the Region III Division II tournament with a 7-0 victory over Genesee CC. Today he allowed two runs on eight hits.
“Both outings I have been blessed with early leads,” Sheffer noted. “First game, GCC, we got up four on them early. This game Spencer came up clutch. From there it’s throwing strikes and let the batters get themselves out.”
Monroe continues in the East District Tournament with 4 p.m. game later Saturday against UConn-Avery Point. The Huskies are ranked third in the nation.