Only time will tell, but Friday’s walk in the park, and all of the good things that came before it, may have done wonders for Schenectady’s young baseball team.
Nick Ottati drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a tie, the Patriots collected a season-high 11 base hits and Ryan Zielinski went the distance in a 4-3 Big 10 win over Bishop Maginn at Central Park’s Buck Ewing Field.
The victory was the second in less than 24 hours for coach John Isabella’s Patriots, who rallied past Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 6-5, Thursday night. Schenectady began its season with losses to Ballston Spa, 6-0, and to Troy in its league opener, 12-1.
“This definitely helps us out, as far as confidence goes,” said Zielinski, one of eight underclassmen on the Patriots roster. “It feels good to finally win. It’s a new ball game now.”
“Now we’re on a win streak,” said Ottati, who twice stranded runners at third base before bringing home the winning run. “Now we want to add to it. We’re going to try.”
Zielinski scattered five hits, singled twice, drove in two runs and stole three bases. Dante
Shafer tripled and scored on a throwing error to give the Pats a 3-2 lead in the fifth, while Ryan Quinn and Cory Flavin both added a pair of singles.
Flavin’s two-run triple in the sixth propelled Schenectady past Burnt Hills Thursday.
“This was a big one for us,” said Isabella, who has only had four lettermen back from last year’s Section II semifinal team in
Shafer, Quinn, Evan Frank and Kyle O’Brey. “We’ll take anything that helps boost the confidence. They needed this one.”
Bishop Maginn reliever Chris Jeffers needed three outs to escape a bases loaded situation in the last of the eighth, but only got one,
before Ottati brought Joe Del Torto Jr. home by taking a high outside fastball on a 3-1 count.
“I was looking for a hit,” said Ottati, a junior third baseman. “When I swung, I gave it everything I had. It was kind of an ugly swing, but I wanted to get the ball out there.”
Del Torto led off the eight with a pinch-hit bunt single, and after Quinn singled, Jeffers intentionally walked Jose Camilo after the count went to 2-1. Zielinski popped out before Ottati got the free pass.
“I’ve had pretty good success bunting the ball,” said Del Torto. “That’s what I was sent up there to do, and that kind of got everything started.”
Jeffers pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh before the Big 10 all-star ran into trouble in the eighth. In the sixth, after Zielinski had singled with two down and stole second and third, Jeffers got Ottati looking at strike three.
“A walk to end the game is the most frustrating thing, but Chris is a bulldog. He’s our man and we’re going to stick with him and support him,” Golden Griffins coach Mike Grasso said of the talented sophomore righty. “He’ll bounce back, and Bishop Maginn will bounce back.”
Bishop Maginn (1-2, 1-4) came back in the top of the sixth, getting a leadoff triple by Devonte Buie and Andrew Butler’s groundout to tie the game at three. Zielinski walked a batter in between those two, got a strikeout and issued two more free passes before ending the inning with a groundout to O’Brey at first base.
“I thought momentum kind of went our way after he got out of that inning,” Isabella said of Zielinski, a junior righty who struck out five and walked four. “That was a key spot.”
Bishop Maginn took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when Butler hit a one-out single, Jeffers legged out a triple and scored on Keon Moore’s groundout.
Schenectady tied the game in the bottom of the inning with a two-out rally against Buie. The freshman hurler hit Alex Jurczynski with a pitch and then gave up a single to Quinn, and after both runners moved up on a balk and Camilo walked, Zielinski singled to left.
Shafer led off the fifth with his triple to deep center and came home on an errant throw to the infield.
Though Schenectady finished with a double-digit hit total, and eight different players had at least one, it stranded runners on third base four times.
“The bats haven’t come to life yet. I don’t know why,” Isabella said. “We need a little more, and I believe it’s going to happen.”