By PAUL GOTHAM
OLEAN, N.Y. — The box score read 8-5 representing the second out. A simple entry. The play was anything but ordinary.
Trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning of Sunday night’s New York Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series game, the Olean Oilers Dave Vaccaro (St. Bonaventure) came up throwing from right center field.
At the other end, David Hollins (St. Petersburg College) climbed the ladder to secure the throw before applying the tag. Think wide receiver in an NFL game leaping in the air to catch a pass and coming down on tip toes to get his feet inbounds. If only that wide receiver had to time his leap and place the pigskin in in a pinpoint spot to complete the play.
“‘Bubba’ knows where he’s catching the ball and where the ball needs to get to before it actually happens,” Olean coach Bobby Bell said of his third baseman. “I’m sure once the ball came out of Dave’s hand he knew what he had to do to make that an out.”
Hollins, with arms outstretched, leaped, grabbed the ball 9-10 feet in the air, landed like a cat straddling the bag and applied the tag before the Jr. Chiefs Joe DeLuca (College of Saint Rose) had a chance.
“‘Bubba’ catches a different rap sometimes when it comes to athletic ability,” Bell noted. “Everyone knows that he’s a strong kinda brute-force kid, or at least that’s the way it comes off. Maybe it’s the body build or just the nickname ‘Bubba’ in general, but he’s extremely athletic.”
The game’s momentum shifted on the play like a fulcrum.
Olean sent 15 to the plate in the decisive home half on their way to a 13-6 series clinching win over the Syracuse Jr. Chiefs. Vaccaro chased Syracuse starter Jimmy Skiff (Purdue-Calumet) with a two-out walk.
“Skiff was throwing so well,” Bell said of the Jr. Chiefs starter. “Before the sixth we brought it in and got together. We made it our goal to get in to the bullpen. We wanted to see a different look. A lot of guys in this league throw well, but we know what our hitters can do. He was obviously keeping us off-balance, doing a good job of getting ahead and really pitching well.”
Olean’s next 10 batters reached base. Syracuse went to the bullpen three more times before the end of the inning.
“Whether it was runs or not, we wanted to get into the bullpen and just try and get a different arm angle, try to get a different look,” Bell added. “Let’s see if we can break out something with that. Luckily enough for us, it worked out that way. We did get to the goal of getting into the bullpen and then started putting barrels on the ball.”
Hollins, who made a series of sparkling plays from the hot corner during the playoffs, earned Championship Series Defensive MVP for the second straight season.
“When he makes a play like that, it shows his athletic ability that is so hidden,” Bell said referring to the tag at third. “He knows off the bat where to dive and stick his glove. It’s almost like he can read the infield better than just about anyone I’ve ever seen in person or that I’ve ever coached. He does catch, it’s not a bad rap, to have that the big strong title to him. His athletic ability is so much more than other people think it is.”