By ANTHONY SCOTT
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — One run already home in the sixth inning the Junior Chiefs were poised to tie the game with runners on second and third and nobody out.
The Cortland crowd, which was large in numbers despite it being a road game, was cheering on their starter to get the Crush out of the inning. Dylan Crossley (Central Baptist) was visited by his pitching coach Daniel Payne before he was set to take on the challenge. With no outs Crossley rose to the occasion striking out not one, not two, but three consecutive Syracuse batters to end the inning and keep his team in the drivers seat leading 3-1.
The Crush ran away with the game from there as they defeated the Syracuse Junior Chiefs 8-1 on Friday night in New York Collegiate Baseball League action.
Those three strikeouts were a part of the Central Baptist sophomore’s six inning performance, in which he only allowed one run on three hits, while collecting six strikeouts.
“I was able to control my fastball, I’ve been working on it all summer and it finally came to me.” Crossley said, “Because I was so focused on my fastball, I was able to bring out the rest of my arsenal to get me through the sixth.”
The Junior Chief starter, Deaven Phillips (Ave Maria), was on his A-game as well, but his defense behind him was not. Derek Martin (Southeastern) got aboard with a walk and then scored the game’s first run on a throwing error by the Junior Chiefs. Cortland led 1-0 after the second inning.
Then in the third inning Cortland had the bases loaded with no one out. After Phillips impressively struck out the Crush’s three and four hitters, it was Greg Mula’s (Samford) turn at the dish. Phillips would have already been out of the inning if it was not for another error that led to the leadoff hitter getting on base. Mula took advantage of the situation and roped a single right back up the middle as two runs scored. Cortland now had a little cushion leading 3-0.
“My teammates helped me out a lot, knowing that the guy was pounding them with curveballs.” Mula said, “It was big to get the roll started, and then we took off from there.”
When his defense was on their game, so was Phillips, he only tossed five innings, but struck out six during that span. He only gave four hits and three runs, but none of those runs were earned.
“I just got to go out there and do my job, what happens behind me is out of my hands.” Phillips said, “I know tonight that I could have done better, but when it comes down to it I’m just fortunate enough to be out here.”
The Junior Chiefs best chance to come back came in that sixth inning after Joe DeLuca (Col. of St. Rose) had already doubled home a run. However, Syracuse squandered the chance to bring in any more runs in the inning.
In the seventh, Anthony Seminaris (Mt. San Antonio) tripled down the right field line to give his home team another opportunity to put runs on the board. Cortland stood tall once again as they struck out the next two hitters to get out of trouble and keep the Crush in the lead 3-1.
The Crush added some insurance with the safety squeeze as Anthony Searles (UMass Boston) executed it to perfection to give Cortland another run. That bunt also moved a runner to third, and Luke Gilbert (Brockport) dropped down a beautiful bunt down the first base line for an RBI hit.
Cortland had busted the game open and led 5-1 after the eighth.
The visiting squad added three more runs in the ninth as they went on to beat the Syracuse Junior Chiefs 8-1 and handed them their third loss in a row.
With the win, Cortland ended their three-game losing streak and now hold a commanding four-game lead in the NYCBL’s Eastern Division.
“Our pitchers made the pitches they needed with their backs against the wall.” Cortland pitching coach Daniel Payne said, “We’ve been tired. The all-star break was good, and this win was huge for us.”
“We got to turn the bus around and fight back.” Junior Chief coach Joe Antonio said, “The two wild card team’s play one nine-inning game, and that’s what it’s looking like for us.”
The 24-12 Cortland Crush will head back home for a three-game series with the Rome Generals. The first game of the series is set for Saturday at 3:00 P.M.
The Junior Chiefs will look to get back to their winning ways on Saturday. Syracuse will be in Wellsville to take on the Nitros with first pitch set for 5:00 P.M.