By ANTHONY SCOTT
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — After a wild and long night of baseball that took four hours to complete. The game came down to one swing. The Junior Chiefs trailed by two, but were able to bring the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with one out. Salt Cat closer Matthew Colon (James Madison) was able to stand tall and get the final two batters out, to seal a victory for his squad.
The Syracuse Salt Cats took down their dorm-room rival Syracuse Junior Chiefs 10-8 Sunday night in New York Collegiate Baseball League action at Onondaga Community College.
The two Syracuse squads already knew they would be meeting in Tuesday’s Eastern Division playoff, but before that they had to finish off the regular season.
The first Syracuse Salt Cat batter of the game set the tone for the entire game. Chris McGee (Binghamton) reached on an error, and that was one of the Junior Chief’s nine errors they committed under the lights on Sunday. The two errors in the first inning allowed the Salt Cats to jump in front 2-0.
Patrick Merryweather (Col. of Charleston) did about all he could do on the mound for the J.Chiefs, but his defense let him down again in the third inning. The Salt Cats added another run and were up 3-1 after three.
Salt Cat starter James Coyne (Villanova) was superb on the mound in three innings of work. He struck out two and only allowed three hits and one run.
“We only wanted Coyne to throw 30-35 pitches,” Salt Cat coach Mike Martinez said. “We want to have him ready for Tuesday if we need him out of the bullpen.”
Once Coyne left the game the J.Chief bats woke up. Immediately in the fourth inning the home Syracuse squad scratched across a couple runs. Then the big blow came with two outs and Sam Little (Ithaca) at the plate. He quickly jumped on the 0-1 pitch and laced a two-run single to give his team the 5-3 lead.
However, that lead was quickly erased and more errors were added to the Chiefs side of the scoreboard. Another costly fielding miscue led to the Salt Cats tying the game at five after five innings of play.
The Salt Cats scored their first earned run in the sixth inning to take a one-run lead as the J.Chiefs walked in a run.
The Salt Cats extended that lead to a comfortable 10-5 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth.
The J.Chiefs did not go down easily though as they quickly scored two runs in their turn in the eighth and had runners on second and third with no one out. Coach Martinez pushed the right button and brought in his big righty Colon out of the pen. Colon got his team out of the inning retiring the first three hitters he faced while only allowing one of the inherited runners to score. Colon stayed on for the ninth and earned the save to give his Salt Cats the 10-8 victory.
The most productive hitter on the night was Salt Cat left fielder Joe Anselmi (Manhattanville) as he went 3-for-5 and scored three runs.
“I’m just trying to get on base and make things happen,” Anselmi said. “I’m just trying to find any way I can help this team win.”
“They had errors, but we still had to come out here and play fundamental baseball, and I’m proud of our guys,” Martinez said, “We are going to see this team on Tuesday, we’re rivals, so this was an important win.”
“We are going to throw guys that they haven’t seen yet on Tuesday. We are going to show them something new,” Jr. Chiefs head coach Joe Antonio said. “We just have to play our hearts out and lay it all out there on Tuesday.”
The second-place Jr. Chiefs will be the home team in Tuesday’s win or go home playoff. The winner advances to the Eastern Division Championship Series against the Cortland Crush.