Baseball: Gators win pair after dropping opener

After two weeks of rainouts – and even some snow – the Port Allegany baseball team finally got some games in the scorebook last week, dropping their first game to Coudersport before bouncing back with wins against Oswayo Valley and Johnsonburg.

By the time the Gators opened their long-delayed season, coach Nate Zitnik joked, the Allegheny River had spent more time on the Moose Park field than his team had.

“We’ve had one legitimate outside practice where we went over everything,” he explained. “We’ve been getting on the guys for mental mistakes, but the bottom line is, we haven’t gotten to go over a lot of stuff, either. There’s a lot of situations we’ve talked about in the gym, but just aren’t the same when you put them on 90 feet.”

Walks, errors, and chilled bats combined to thwart the Gators in last Tuesday’s 9-4 loss to the Falcons, a rain-shortened six-inning affair moved to Moose Park from an even soggier C.A.R.P. Field.

“We would’ve liked to have played a little bit better against Coudy,” Zitnik said, “but you can say that about all the games you lose, I guess. But these guys are good kids and quality individuals; they work hard and they’re playing with something to prove. You can’t ask for more than that as a coach. So hopefully we settle in, and it turns into some winning ballgames.”

The Gator bats heated up in time for Thursday’s game at Oswayo Valley, with Sam Kysor and Garrett Drabert homering as Port pounded out 12 hits in its 10-4 victory. Kysor finished the day 2-for-4 with 3 RBI and also threw a perfect 10-pitch seventh inning to close the game. Charlie Buchanan (3-for-3) and Chad Barnard (2-for-4) also added to the Gator attack, while Drabert struck out two and allowed just one hit in four innings of work to pick up the win.

The next night’s win over visiting Johnsonburg was nowhere near as comfortable, and not without its share of controversy. With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning and Gator runners on second and third, a dispute over the ball-strike count led to a balk which plated the winning run, stirring a heated argument between the Johnsonburg coaches and the home-plate umpire.

Standing in the third-base coaches’ box, Zitnik had a front-row seat: “From my perspective, I don’t know what the ump said, but the kid started his windup, and the coach walked out and said, ‘stop.’ The kid stopped in the middle of the windup, and I said, ‘Balk,’” he explained.

Johnsonburg coach Jeff Peterson was still fuming about the sequence of events afterward, calling it some of the worst officiating he’d ever seen before adding, “Overall, good game, nice showing on their part – they’re tough – but we’ll be back.”

The Gators struck early, with Seth Lowery and Matt Bodamer singling to lead off the bottom of the first and coming home on Camrin Stuckey’s standup double to right-center. Johnsonburg cleanup hitter Joe Holmberg tied the game with a two-RBI double in the third, then scored the go-ahead run, but Port quickly answered in the bottom of the inning as Chad Barnard singled home Lowery and Stuckey to go back on top 4-3. The Rams pushed a run across on a throwing error in the top of the fourth, setting up the controversial finish.

If the weather cooperates, Port (2-1) is scheduled to play a doubleheader at Smethport on Wednesday, then travel to Cuba-Rushford for a non-league game next Monday.

At Port Allegany, Apr. 12:
Coudersport 4 2 0 0 1 2 – 9 7 2
Port Allegany 2 0 1 1 0 0 – 4 5 3
Wolfinger, Jolley (4)(4 SO, 3 BB) and Whitman
Hildebrandt (3 SO, 6 BB), Stuckey (4)(2 SO, 3 BB), Drabert (6)(1 BB) and Lowery

At Shinglehouse, Apr. 14:
Port Allegany 4 2 0 0 0 2 2 – 10 11 1
Oswayo Valley 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 – 4 3 4
Drabert (2 SO, 4 BB), Stuckey (5)(3 SO, 4 BB), Kysor (7)(1 SO, 0 BB) and Sigafoes
Miller (3 SO, 6 BB) and A. Jandrew
HR: Kysor (PA), Drabert (PA)

At Port Allegany, Apr. 15:
Johnsonburg 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 – 4 4 1
Port Allegany 2 0 2 0 0 1 x – 5 5 3
M. Holmberg (5 SO, 1 BB) and Z. Luhr
Hildebrandt (4 SO, 2 BB), Stuckey (5)(4 SO, 1 BB) and Sigafoes
2B: Stuckey (PA), Lowery (PA), J. Holmberg (J)

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