By KATIE FAULKNER
WELLSVILLE, N.Y. — Connor Ryan (Mercyhurst) and a 12-hit effort paced the Hornell Dodgers to a 3-0 win over the Wellsville Nitros in the New York Collegiate Baseball League’s Western Division Playoff, Tuesday.
Ryan handed Wellsville its third shutout of the summer, allowing four hits over eight innings of work. He struck out seven and walked one before Jake Miller (Lackawanna) took over in the ninth for the save.
“I pitched backwards to the batters during the first few innings to keep them off balance,” said Ryan. “Since they were off balance with my off-speed pitches I could sneak some fastballs in there to attack them late in the count.”
With a pitch count hovering around 100, Ryan said it was a mutual decision between himself and head coach Jake Kenney to remain in the game for the eighth.
“I’m a guy that can eat up innings and throw a lot of pitches, “ said Ryan. “I was just trying to pound the zone and get my outs and it was my job to get us through the eighth and allow [Miller] to take over in the ninth.”
“That was out best start all year from any of our pitchers,” said Kenney on Ryan. “Our first shutout of the year came at a huge time in a playoff game.”
The first run of the game came in the fourth when Hornell’s Dylan May (Wofford) connected on a solo home run. The score remained 1-0 until the sixth when John Ricotta (Monroe CC) went yard to add to the Hornell lead.
“That was the second or third time that I saw that pitcher,” Ricotta said. “He was working me outside but I thought one of these times he would come in on me. He threw a fastball middle in, and I just turned on it. It was a good pitch.”
Wellsville put runners in scoring position in the fifth when Mike McNicholl (Eastern New Mexico) advanced to first on a hit-by-pitch. Cole Tracy (Finger Lakes) singled, and Pat Scholla (John Carroll) followed with a sacrifice bunt.
Ryan escaped with a ground out to the right side of the infield and a routine fly ball.
“I just tried to take a deep breath and just attack the hitter pitch by pitch not look ahead but focus on that pitch and get a ground ball,” Ryan said of his approach with a pair in scoring position. “It ended up working out.”
The Nitros left six runners on base in the game.
Hornell tacked on another run in the eighth when Tyler Burns (Trevecca Nazarene U) drove in May to make it 3-0.
With two outs in the eighth and runners on first and second, Wellsville’s Harry Montero Jr. (Bloomfield) had an opportunity to tie things up, but his shot to center field was reeled in by Adam Fitzgibbon (Saginaw Valley St) just short of the fence.
“We knew he was going try and put one out,” said first-year Hornell coach Jake Kenney. “He’s very capable, leading the league in home runs…He almost got us. It was by the skin of our teeth, but we’ll take it.”
May paced the offense for the Dodgers, going 3-for-5 with a home run and two runs scored. Ricotta went 2-for-5 with a home run while Fitzgibbon, Mike Wick (Webster) and Ty Reginelli (Wofford) added two hits apiece.
Wellsville’s Carlos Tejeda (Bloomfield) gave up two runs on eight hits in five innings of work. He retired two before Matt Hunt (Manhattanville) took over in the sixth, allowing one run on two hits. Mike DEletto (Central Methodist) replaced Hunt in the eighth, giving up one hit. Patrick Berthelette (Marymount) finished the night on the mound for the Nitros, allowing one hit.
Nic Varda (Ashland) paced the offense for the Nitros, collecting two of Wellsville’s four total hits. Jacob Sims (Roane State CC) and Tracy added a hit apiece.
The Nitros ended the regular season at 24-22.
The Hornell Dodgers advanced to the Western Division Championship Series where they will take on the Olean Oilers. Game one is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start Wednesday at Bradner Stadium.
“As far as playing Olean tomorrow, there’s no pressure on us,” said Kenney. “Everyone expects them to win, so we’re just going in to play our game and battle for another day.”