Ford City edges Freeport in extra innings
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In a game in which both teams missed plenty of chances, an opportunistic sprint from third made the difference.
Anthony Falsetti scored from third when an infield fly rule out off the bat of Mike Fennell hit the ground, giving Ford City a 5-4 nine-inning Section 3-AA win over visiting Freeport on Wednesday.
The play was an appropriate ending for a game that featured eight errors, including one that put Falsetti on base in the ninth, as well as mental mistakes by the Sabers (2-4, 2-2) and 12 runners left on base by the Yellowjackets (4-4, 4-1).
“We gave them help with our errors early, and they gave it away to us late in the game,” Ford City coach Dennis Montgomery said. “It's a big win for us because it's so early in the season, and we didn't play well against Freeport the first time. It's a good win for us to steal against a team that we think will end up winning 10 or 11 games (in section) this year.”
The Sabers twice had to rally to extend the game. After Ford City fell behind 2-1 in the second inning, Fennell tied the game in the bottom of the sixth when a throw to third skipped into the outfield and allowed him to score.
Freeport then took a 4-2 lead in the eighth on RBI singles by Justin Brestensky and Matt Swartz, but the Sabers got back in it by getting aggressive on the base paths.
Noah Nulph hit an RBI groundout to short that scored Fennell, but Ashton McGinnis took off from second on the throw to first.
The throw back across the diamond couldn't be handled at third and skipped out of play, which allowed McGinnis to walk home for the tying run.
“I think it was deflating for all of us that we let them back into it (in the eighth),” Freeport coach Chris Graczyk said. “We gave it away to them, and we also didn't take advantage of our chances.
“We had guys on base in almost every inning, but their kid pitched a nice game to get them out of trouble.”
Caleb Zablocki struck out eight and allowed four runs — two earned — for the Sabers before Blake Bower came on in relief and got the win with a 1-2-3 top of the ninth.
“Caleb threw a monster game, and he really sucked it up for us out there,” Montgomery said. “He's not a guy that's going to go out there and strike out 10 guys every start with a big fastball, but he's improved every year for us, and he's starting to throw like a No. 1 pitcher.”
Nathan Pastorek struck out nine and allowed one unearned run in five innings for Freeport, and he left the game in line for the win. Matt Van Tine allowed three runs over the next three innings, and Hunter Fennell took the loss in the ninth for Freeport, but both of Ford City's tying runs and the winning run were unearned.
The fielding mistakes weren't limited to the Yellowjackets, however. McGinnis gave Ford City a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the first inning, but he also allowed Freeport to get its lead in the second.
Josh Beale tied the game with an RBI single for Freeport, but with runners on first and second, Ford City could have had the second out with a runner caught leading too far off first base.
Rather than throwing to third and trapping Beale, the lead runner, McGinnis threw to second, which let Beale reach third and later score on an error.
“We let the lead runner get to third, and he comes around and scores. We're not a great offensive team, so we can't make those mental mistakes. We practice that, and our kids know better than than,” Montgomery said.
The mistakes ended up not costing the Sabers, who picked up a big section win and put themselves in position to contend for the third playoff spot in the muddled Section 3-AA standings.
Despite taking their first section loss, Freeport held on to first place in the section because of another unpredictable result on the same day: a 9-7 Deer Lakes loss to previously winless Burrell.
“The section is a mess right now, and we'll have to see what happens,” Graczyk said. “I think a lot of it is because of the weather keeping us off the field so much. We've got another game tomorrow, so hopefully we can bounce back and get that one.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.
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