Baseball: Gator bats go quiet

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
May 20, 2010

The Port High baseball team was building some momentum coming into the home stretch of the regular-season schedule, winning six of seven games and scoring 10 or more runs in each of the last four. But after a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at Oswayo Valley followed by a pair of 13-3 setbacks, the Gators will need to regroup before next week’s District 9 playoffs begin.

The game at Shinglehouse was a mirror image of the first Port-OV meeting this year, with the home team pushing across the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“It was a great pitching battle that came down to one team catching a break at the end,” Green Wave coach Rob Page told the Olean Times Herald.

On Saturday morning, Port stepped out of the league for a home game against Class AA Towanda, which brought along a roster bigger than most area football teams can claim. The Knights, perennial contenders in the District 4 playoffs, showed it by batting around in the first inning and jumping out to a 9-0 lead after two. The Gators got three back in the bottom half of the inning, using singles by Charlie Buchanan and Sam Kysor and a sacrifice by Seth Lowery to creep back into the game. But Ben Griffith, who had already doubled twice for Towanda, parked a three-run shot over the fence in his next at-bat to restore the nine-run margin, and the Knights pushed another one across in the top of the fifth to end the game early.

“They’re a good baseball team,” Port coach Nate Zitnik said. “They start three seniors, and all three are going on to play college baseball. It was a good measuring stick – for any of our guys who want to play at the next level, they got to see that that’s what it takes.

“With a team like that, if you don’t put up eight or 10 runs, you’re probably not going to be in the ballgame, and that’s how it went.”

Zach Place – who hurled a 12-strikeout perfect game earlier in the season for Towanda – rang up four K’s in three innings of work to pick up the win. Garrett Drabert, Camrin Stuckey, and Garrett Kio shared pitching duties for the home team, combining for six strikeouts and five walks, and Lucas Kline doubled for Port’s only extra-base hit.

The Gators were back at windy Moose Park on Monday to face Coudersport, with the Falcons seeking to avenge a 12-10 loss earlier in the season. Port held a 2-1 lead after two innings on Lowery’s RBI single and Sam Kysor’s sacrifice fly, but Coudy broke the game open with a seven-run third keyed by Tim McCusker’s two-run double, then added another five-spot in the fourth to cruise to the 13-3 win. Mike Miller went the distance for the win, walking four and scattering six hits. J.D. Haskins, Stuckey, and Drabert took the mound for Port, striking out eight and issuing six free passes. Andrew Mickle tripled and Kevin Wolfinger added a double for the Falcons, while freshman Ricky Bova had two of the Gators’ six singles.

“We were ready for a dogfight, and everything went our way,” Coudy coach Doug McClintic said. “They had some nice hits that just didn’t fall in for them.”

Unlucky? Perhaps, but a disappointed Zitnik wasn’t interested in making any excuses.

“That’s the way baseball goes,” he said. “If one hit doesn’t fall, you have to get the next one. Bottom line, they hit the ball, they got after it, and we didn’t. We’ve just got to show up and play better than we played tonight.”

Now 9-7, the Gators close out the regular season with a trip to Smethport on Wednesday, then wait to see where they’re headed for their playoff opener.

“We’ve played some good baseball and some bad baseball; it’s kind of been a mixture this year,” Zitnik said. “But with a young team, it’s something that you have to expect – and as a young coach, I’m learning too.”

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