By Taylor Nigrelli
BATAVIA, NY — Perry Rigby (Covenant College), Bobby Twitty (St. Leo’s) and Ben Pickard (Delta State) homered, Cody Pentecost (College of the Ozarks) got on base five times, eight different men got on base and Luke Heller (Cornerstone University) earned his first win as the Niagara Power took advantage of a 10-run seventh inning to defeat the Hornell Dodgers 16-1 in New York Collegiate Baseball League action at Dwyer Stadium, Monday.
Heller went five innings without allowing an earned run while working out of multiple jams. Twice he was able to get out two-on one out situations unscathed even as the defense around him committed three errors. Niagara Coach Josh Rebandt called Heller’s performance “resilient” and said he’s a few tweaks away from being able to pitch into the later innings.
“If he can locate his fastball a little bit better, he’ll be able to pitch deeper into games,” Rebandt said. “He’s got good stuff but a command of his fastball will help him get more innings.”
Pitching may have been the story of the first half of the game but the offense took center stage late in the game as the Power scored 10 runs on 10 hits in the seventh inning. 15 batters made it to the plate over the course of the inning. All in all, the Power scored 16 runs on 18 hits. According to Rebandt, the team’s offensive focus was palpable before the game.
“Coach Vierra pitched batting practice today and he told me before the game that the guys were locked in,” Rebandt said. “We came out and proved that. We saw a lot of fastballs, we hit well deep in counts and we made good contact.”
Pentecost also felt the team was “locked in” before the game.
“By the score I think we can tell we were all feeling it offensively,” Pentecost said. “Before the game we were talking about how we were really locked in during batting practice. From one to nine we were all seeing the ball well at the plate.”
There seemed to be no limit to the variety of ways the Power could get on base and score runs. They hit three home runs, outfielder Johnny Craig (Georgia Southern) hit two triples, they walked five times, three players reached on error, one run was scored on a sacrifice fly and one player reached first after being struck by a pitch. Rebandt knows how valuable this versatility can be.
“I’ve been a part of teams where it’s all about small ball,” Rebandt said. “So it’s nice that we can do that and with two outs we can double, double and score runs that way. It’s nice to have that versatility where we have guys that can hit the gaps and we can put runs across that way.”
The Power struck first on Rigby’s first home run of the season in the bottom of the second. Craig and Cameron Wilkie (Brown) added RBI hits to extend the lead to 3-0.
The Power went into the seventh inning up 4-1 and came out up 14-1 after a trying series for Hornell pitchers and fielders. After the Power had already extended the lead to 6-1, a throw from third to first on a routine ground ball that could have ended the inning sailed a few feet over the first baseman’s head, scoring three runs for Niagara. The Power never looked back, scoring five more runs before making another out and then adding two additional runs in the eighth.
Josh Schulman (University of Rochester) pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the game.
Niagara will be back in action Tuesday night at home against Geneva. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.