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Synergy ends slump, reaches DNL playoffs

| Saturday, July 26, 2014, 12:21 a.m.

There's nothing like a little bit of last-minute pressure for the Synergy Group baseball team.

With its 3-0 win over Sakas Landscaping on Friday night at Helen Ritchey Field in McKeesport, Synergy earned a Daily News League playoff berth as the fifth and final seed. It has become a tradition for Synergy to rally for a playoff spot late in the season.

“We made the playoffs three years in a row and all three came down to the last game,” Synergy manager John Rende said.

Synergy (11-9) will take on No. 4 South Hills at 6:15 p.m. Monday at Mellon Middle School. South Park, Quinn Construction and Clancy's Pub also made the playoffs.

After losing seven of its previous eight games, Synergy won the game it needed to and earned a spot in the playoffs, while Sakas was knocked out of contention.

“We didn't want to make it easy on ourselves,” Rende said.

On Friday, Synergy jumped to an early lead and then Zack Eddinger's complete-game gem closed the show.

The right-handed Eddinger struck out seven in seven innings and allowed just three hits. He struck out the side to end the game.

Eddinger got all three runs of support in the top of the first inning. After leadoff man Matt Corner walked, Johnny Rende, John's son, reached base on an error by Sakas shortstop Anthony Colondrea, who had three errors in the game. Corner was then singled home by Matt Bradburn, who advanced to second base on the throw home. A pickoff attempt to second by Sakas pitcher Cody McClelland sailed into center field, allowing Rende to score from third. Matt Pitschman's single scored Bradburn.

That was all the support Eddinger (6-1) needed. His fastball hit its spots — mostly around the knees — and his curveball and changeup kept Sakas' batters off-balance.

“We usually win games with defense and pitching,” Rende said. “That was what we had today. We made a lot of good plays in the field, and Eddinger was lights out.”

Only one Sakas runner advanced past first base. Antonio Palangio, who singled twice for Sakas, was stranded on third to end the sixth inning.

“We just didn't hit the ball well today,” Sakas player-coach Ryan Alm said. “It seems like we made contact.It just didn't fall for us.”

Despite the loss, the right-handed McClelland (2-3) pitched well for Sakas (9-12). In his fourth complete game of the season, he struck out five and allowed no runs over the final six innings.

The last time he faced Synergy on July 2, he threw all seven innings and struck out eight to get the win.

“He calmed down after that first inning,” Alm said. “He usually takes an inning or two to warm up, but after that he usually starts throwing harder, gets in a groove and that's what he did tonight.”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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