James Cooke Post turns tables with 7 runs in the 7th to win, 8-3

Peyton Schuck (right) gets fired up after TJ Long drove in him among two runs that gave James Cooke Post a 4-3 lead it wouldn’t relinquish. (Photo: BILLY HEYEN)

By BILLY HEYEN

EAST ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Through the first six innings on Tuesday, James Cooke Post had six hits and just a sole run to show for it. The visitors trailed by two to the hosts Brooks Shepard. James Cooke had its 7-8-9 hitters coming up to try to mount a comeback. The message from James Cooke coach Joseph Kurnath was simple.

“Make the pitcher battle,” Kurnath said of his team’s goal in the seventh. “Make sure that he throws you a strike. Don’t give him any free outs. Just battle. Make the pitcher work.”

James Cooke did that and more. The visitors batted around, doubled their hit tally and scored seven runs. The game went from tightly contested to a runaway victory for James Cooke.

For six innings, Brooks Shepard and starting pitcher Matt Adams looked in control. It was only in the seventh that James Cooke stood out. But seven runs in the final inning turned the game around, took one bad pitch from Owen Delforte off the hook and made TJ Long the winning pitcher behind his own two-run hit. It was a big, 8-3 win on the second night of three in-a-row with games for James Cooke and a second-consecutive heartbreak for Brooks Shepard.

“Winning this is big,” Kurnath said. “And especially against a team like Brooks, who I know we’re gonna see in the postseason if we make it. It’s a big confidence boost for sure.”

The first run of the game came courtesy of James Cooke before its bats fell silent. In the top of the second, Delforte helped his own cause by singling through the right side and driving home Sam DiGiacomo.

All of Brooks Shepard’s damage came in the bottom of the third. The inning started with two rough hops. First, a grounder to the second baseman hopped up at the last second for a hit. Then, Noah Gerlach hit a chopper to third that stayed down at the last second for another. Aaron Jenks ripped one up the middle that hit off Delforte’s glove for a third tough-luck knock. That’s when Brooks Shepard three-hitter Jake Schuler stepped in.

“I just wanted to throw strikes to him,” Delforte said. “And I made a good pitch, and he made a good swing.”

Schuler’s cut sent a rope out to centerfield that brought home three runs. He was thrown out at third but not before giving Brooks Shepard the lead.

From that point on, it looked like Adams would pitch Brooks Shepard to victory. He pitched five and two-thirds of one-run baseball. And Zachary Salisbury got the final out of the sixth on a five-pitch strikeout to seemingly have Brooks Shepard in control.

But then the tables turned. An infield single, a hit by pitch and a walk loaded the bases for James Cooke to start the seventh. That had been its 7-8-9 batters, but now the visitors were back to the top of the order with none out. Peyton Schuck drove in the first run on an infield single. That was followed by a force at the plate to set up a one out, bases loaded-situation for Long, down a run.

Long had yet to bat on Tuesday. He’d come into the game to relieve Delforte, and the lineup-shuffling then put him right into the three spot of James Cooke’s order. Afterwards, he said his mindset was to just take the pitch wherever it was thrown. On 2-2, he got a curveball and poked it up the middle, just out of the reach of the middle infielders. Two runs scored, giving James Cooke a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“Wood bats can do some funky things, so I was just hoping for him to put good contact on,” Kurnath said. “Nice solid groundball like he did, and especially up the middle. Love it.”

Long wouldn’t have to close out a one-run lead, though. His teammates got him four more runs to work with. Zachary Carpin ripped a run-scoring single. Delforte delivered his second RBI-hit of the night. Tim Keohane completed the damage with a run-scoring knock of his own.

James Cooke was down two runs when Long entered. Now, he had a five-run lead to work with.

“Pitch ahead,” Long said of his seventh-inning mindset. “We did get that lead so I’m feeling pretty confident about where we are in the game. Basically just pitch some strikes and let my defense do the work.”

It wasn’t a clean finish. Long allowed two hits and plunked a batter. But his defense finished the job, like he hoped. A line drive to the right-center gap was run down and caught on a dive. The throw back in hopped to the first baseman, who stepped on the bag to double a runner off and end the ballgame. Long was the winning pitcher, courtesy of his own two-run hit.

James Cooke Post is a team composed of almost all players from Victor High School. Brooks Shepard is solely players from Fairport High School. And so even though the names on the front of the jerseys didn’t say those schools, Long knew the kids he was playing against. And he was glad to beat them.

“I’m not a big fan of Fairport,” Long said. “So it’s always great to beat them.”

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