HERE WE GO AGAIN-SMITH-UTICA IN D 5 BASEBALL THRILLER
EDDIE ZAKREWSKI BABE’S PLAYER OF THE GAME
Don’t know what it is about these two teams, but whatever it is… I like it. When the dust settled on Smith Post of Rome’s, 3-2 home opening, win over Utica Post, fans from both teams must have left the ball yard at RFA saying, “ I think I’ve seen this movie before.”
Talk about a great night for American Legion baseball. The weather was perfect, high 80′s, with a gentle breeze and nothing but blue skies and white clouds above.
It was also opening night for Smith Post of Rome, as the 2012 edition took the field following a ceremonial first pitch by Rome’s, new Mayor, Joe Fusco.
Fusco was thrilled to be asked to have the honor of tossing the opening pitch in front of his constituents and fans of this tradition rich American Legion Baseball program.
I think I may have gotten into the mayor’s head by reminding him how difficult it was to reach the plate from the well groomed mound at RFA’s Bill Vinci Field.
Just Kidding. The mayor came through with flying colors and even brought a glove to the hill to complete the task at hand. Nice job Joe.
We also got a sense of what American Legion baseball is all about when the, Henry P. Smith Post, color-guard marched proudly out to the mound as part of the opening day ceremonies.
Always fun to watch the Abone boys and Greg Gatea and his coaching staff match wits on the diamond. It was that kind of night, again, and we were not disappointed.
It also doesn’t hurt to be able to run two talent laden starting 9′s out to do battle as well. Both teams have a great mix of college age players and high school stars from the area.
Utica Post pulls most of its players from Proctor High in Utica. In fact, of the 16 players on the roster, 15 are Proctor Raiders or former Raiders. Only Matt Haddad from Frankfort comes from another program.
Smith Post has 9 RFA Black Knights, 3 Rome Catholic Redwings, 2 Oneida Indians and one player, Garrett Pavlus, from the Town of Webb. Talk about a guy who must really love baseball. That’s a haul to each practice and game.
OK…on with the show. Ed Zakrzewski, a product of the Rome Catholic program, had honors on the hill for the home team. “Eddie Z,” as he is affectionately known by the fans, earned the hard fought win for Smith.
Zakrzewski went 6-2/3 innings to help his team pull out the win, yielding just four hits, walking just 4 and striking out 1. It all added up to a great outing and earned Eddie the Babe’s Macaroni Grille & Bar Player of the Game honors.
Just two UP hitters had more than one hit. Lawrence Elliot had two, a single and a long, moonshot, home run to left center that cut a 2-0 Smith Post lead in half in the visitor’s fourth.
Gary McConnell also had two hits for Utica Post, two singles and also drove in a run to help complete his good night.
The Smith Post offense was able to muster up 7 hits off, tough luck, loser Tom DeBernardis, a crafty left hander, who knows how to manufacture outs.
DeBernardis struck out 6 Smith Post batters and walked just three. In this league a line like that usually has a W next to it.
It was not easy, in the early going, for “Eddie Z” as the rightie offered up a first inning mixed bag.
Matt Scotellaro struck out, looking to start things off and then two straight walks to short stop Dan Priore and first basemen Gary McConnell got Zakrzewski in trouble with just one out.
Jordan Treen then became strike out victim number two and no further damage was done.
Both teams brought their gloves to this one. In the Smith first, Jordan Koons hit a hot shot to short and Dan Priore made a spectacular play, as he dove for the ball, jumped up and gunned across to McConnell for the out.
A beautifully turned, 6-4-3, double play helped Utica Post get through the second inning without yielding a run. Both teams took turns turning great defensive plays.
Smith Post held serve with a defensive “web gem” of their own when Dan Priore ripped one down the line in left and tried to stretch a double into a triple.
Problem is, as Tony Abone Senior would say, “that’s why we work on those relay throws so much in practice.”
Left fielder Brian Chevier made a perfect throw to, short stop, Steven Eychner who showed off his arm by gunning down the speedy Priore as third basemen Jordan Koons slapped the leather down on Priore for the big out.
This play was huge because Gary McConnell followed up with a single over the bag at third. If Priore had been safe a run would have scored for the visitors.
Speaking of runs, Smith Post posted a pair in their half of the third when Brian Chevier doubled down the line, in left, and later scored when Alex Rudiak picked up an RBI by singling to left, himself.
A great sac bunt by Garrett Pavlus moved Rudiak to third and then home when Steven Eychner beat out an infield single to drive in run number two for Smith Post.
With a 2-0 lead, the home fans were loving life. At least until a certain Lawrence Elliot dug in at the dish in the top of inning four.
Elliot did not know his tater was out of the yard, as he sped into second and then, realizing it was a “Getty goner,” Elliot broke out his best home run trot as he rounded second and headed home to cut the lead to 2-1.
Utica Post scratched out their second and last run in the fifth, as AJ Partipelo walked and later came around to score to even things up at 2-2.
A perfectly executed hit and run pushed AJ into scoring position, as Gary McConnell snuck one through a hole on the right side.
A sac fly, to left, by Dan Priore chased Partipelo home with the tying tally.
That set up all the late drama as Smith Post scored the game winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Jeff Cooke, who had come on in relief with two men out in the sixth inning, stepped up and delivered a sharp single to left and then moved into scoring position after a great at bat by Andrew DeBlasiis who fouled off seven pitches before doubling to deep left.
The high arcing fly ball landed at the base of the wall. Problem is, Tony Abone Junior could not send Cooke home because he didn’t know if the ball would be caught.
Brian Chevier worked the count full and then worked out a walk to load the bases with Smith Post runners.
Up stepped Alex Rudiak, who quickly fell behind in the count and appeared to have been another strike out victim for DeBernardis when he broke off another slow curve.
Problem is, the offering hit the lip of home plate and ended up at the back stop allowing Cooke to speed home with the eventual game winning run as Smith Post now led, 3-2.
With one last at bat in the top of the seventh, Utica Post had two men on after Dan Priore and Jordan Treen worked out walks.
Cooke then settled down to get Nick Maldonado to fly out to center to end this thriller.
Smith Post goes right back at it at home on Thursday night, as the (1-0) Romans play host to Helmuth-Ingalls.
Up next for Utica Post ( 2-1) in league play and (3-6) overall is a visit to Noyes Park in Sherrill on June 18th.
Smith Post 3 Utica Post 2
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Utica Post 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 5 1
Smith Post 0 0 2 0 0 1 X 3 7 1