By ANTHONY SCOTT
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Syracuse Junior Chiefs lost the regular season series to their dorm-room rival Syracuse Salt Cats.
That did not matter Tuesday night when the Jr. Chiefs tamed the Salt Cats 8-1 in New York Collegiate Baseball League playoff action.
The starting pitching matchup featured two NYCBL all stars in Jimmy Skiff (Purdue Univ. Calumet) and Sean Pisik (Le Moyne). The Junior Chiefs starting pitcher, Skiff, started his night off retiring the side in the top of the first.
The Junior Chiefs pushed across a few runners against Pisik in the bottom half of the frame. After a couple infield singles, and a sacrifice bunt, Conner Lafferty (DeSales) delivered with a two-out single down the third base line to plate a pair. The J.Chiefs were leading 2-0 after the first.
“Was bigger than Billy Fucillo,” Jr. Chiefs coach Joe Antonio said of the early production while referencing the local car dealer who claims his sales are ‘huge.’ “I was hoping our guys would come out on fire, and I knew they would bounce back.”
Webb Little (Ithaca) plated two more in the second with a double to right field. Nick Roy (Nichols Col) made it 5-0 later in in the inning with an RBI-sacrifice fly.
Roy helped his starter, Skiff, get out of the top of the third with an amazing diving catch in left field. He also showed off his arm with a put out from the outfield on a batter trying to stretch a hit into a double.
“It was a one and done. None of us want to go home,” the Nichols college junior said of his diving play. “I kept listening to Anthony (Seminaris, his center fielder) and it hung up long enough for me to make a play on it.”
Little was the J-Chiefs most effective hitter going three-for-five with an RBI and a run scored.
“Our sticks are working; our arms are working. It’s going good.” Little said, “We got a couple more games to go. We just got to keep it up.”
Skiff exited the game in the sixth after the Salt Cats had the bases loaded with one out. The Dyer, Indiana native’s night ended allowing only four hits, four walks, and striking out three.
“I was pumped, it was an honor to start a game with the season on the line. We put a two spot up in the first cut all the nerves.” Skiff said after his winning performance, “My defense made a lot of plays for me, Nick Roy had a diving catch and I mean you can’t ask for anything more than that.”
After a allowing a run to score on a weak infield single, Jr. Chiefs reliever Alex Meyers (Concordia) escaped the jam with two strike outs.
“Coming out of the pen my approach is totally different, especially in that situation.” Meyers said, “I just knew we had to get two outs, and I was able to use all my stuff because I didn’t have to last.”
After Chris Ruiz (St. Thomas Aquinas) scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to make it 6-1, it was teammate Zach Smith’s (Salve Regina) turn to do some damage in the seventh. Smith launched a home run to the deepest part of the ballpark (400 ft to dead center). The two run shot gave his team a convincing 8-1 cushion.
“He threw two balls and my coach said ‘you know it’s coming’ and I was sitting fastball, and he threw me one.” The The New Canaan, Connecticut native said, “It is very big going into a big series against Cortland.”
Kevin Soriano (Saint Peters) shut the door on the Salt Cats and allowing one walk in his ninth inning appearance, to help his team close an 8-1 victory.
“Our hit and run worked well, they weren’t really expecting it.” Antonio said, “I have 100 percent confidence we can go all the way, if we jump out each day like we did today.”
For the Salt Cats their season came to an end.
“We had a couple errors. They scored early, and we left some runners on,” Salt Cats coach Mike Martinez said. “I couldn’t ask for them to do anything more, because they played the best they could every single day.”
With the win, the Junior Chiefs advance to face the Cortland Crush in the Eastern Division Championship Series. The EDCS opens Wednesday at Cortland’s Beaudry Park. A 6 p.m. first pitch is scheduled.