By ZACH GILLELAND
It was the bottom of the ninth.
A runner on second and nobody out, Oswego St. (1-1) turns to its ace on the mound.
With Salisbury (3-4) down a run, sophomore first baseman Jay Perry digs into the batter’s box. The 1-1 pitch comes to the plate.
Perry connects and hits a deep drive to right. The outfielder chases but runs out of room and the ball sails over the wall. After a four-game skid, the Sea Gulls are back in the win column.
Salisbury erased a four-run deficit to stun the Lakers 13-12 in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader.
“This is huge,” Perry said. “To come out here and get a win on that ending and get back on track is really big.”
After being shut down 13-3 in the first game of the day, game two yielded better results for a Sea Gull team that was looking for something to go their way.
Being held to only three runs in the game prior, SU head coach Troy Brohawn made some changes to the lineup, moving senior right fielder Kevin Dean to the leadoff spot.
Dean led off the bottom of the first with a single and stole second on the ensuing at-bat. The senior then tagged up on a fly ball to right and a run batted in (RBI) groundout by Pete Grasso gave the Sea Gulls an early 1-0 lead.
Senior right hander Jeff Oster started the second game for Salisbury and cruised through his first three innings, surrendering his first hit with two away in the third.
Things started to unravel in the top of the fourth with Oswego St. senior third baseman Eric Hamilton leading off the inning with a double down the left field line. Junior left fielder John Barnes followed with a moon shot that cleared the trees in left-center that gave the Lakers their first lead of the game.
The Sea Gulls would respond in the bottom half of the inning with back-to-back singles by senior left fielder Kyle Canavan and Grasso, putting runners in scoring position. Sophomore third baseman Jack Barry then scorched a single to center field, scoring two.
After an error by Oswego St. junior shortstop Robert Donnelly put two runners on the corners, SU junior designated hitter Ryan Horseman hit a two-run double to left to give Salisbury a 5-2 edge.
The Lakers would answer right back. Two walks by Oster and an error loaded the bases for Hamilton. Hamilton, a first team All-SUNYAC selection a year ago, hit a grand slam, putting Oswego St. on top 6-5.
What looked to be a good pitch by Oster was an even better hit by Hamilton. The 0-2 pitch was well outside, but Hamilton reached across the plate and pushed the ball to right with the wind carrying it over the fence.
The back-and-forth action continued in the bottom of the fifth. After back-to-back singles by Grasso and senior catcher Tom Labriola put the Sea Gulls in business, a wild pitch from Lakers’ starter Brian Nolan scored Grasso to tie the game. Errors came back to haunt Oswego St., as a misplay by senior second baseman Zach Kollar scored Labriola for a 7-6 Salisbury lead.
Oster’s day ended in the seventh inning after giving up a leadoff walk. Although surrendering six earned runs, the senior right-hander only allowed four hits and struck out four.
“We struggled pitching in the first game, so I knew I had to set the tone on the mound,” Oster said. “I tried to mix it up. Oswego St. seemed to sit on the fastball, so I tried to get them on the off-speed more. Overall, I think it was a pretty good outing.”
Oster has been a bright spot for a pitching staff that has struggled. The starter has made it to the sixth inning in all three of his starts this season, a feat no other Salisbury pitcher has done.
“He’s a gamer and I can’t say enough great things about how he’s gone from last year to this year,” coach Brohawn said. “Every time he takes the hill, you know he’s going to give everything he’s got.”
Second baseman Grasso came on to pitch for the Gulls. An error hurt Salisbury as a run came in to score to tie the game again. A fielder’s choice off the bat of Lakers’ junior first baseman Kyle Dinges scored another run, giving Oswego St. an 8-7 lead.
Being down a run in the bottom of the eighth, junior shortstop Scott Ardoin led off with a double. With two runners on and two outs, an infield single by Canavan tied the game at eight. The Sea Gulls benefited from the AstroTurf infield as the ball sailed 20 feet in the air off a bounce, which allowed Canavan to reach first without a throw.
The fireworks continued into the ninth. After giving up their lead an inning prior, the Lakers responded with an RBI single from senior left fielder Myles Kutscher.
The weirdest play of the game came when, with two runners on, a Dinges bunt forced a play at the plate. SU’s Labriola caught the Oswego St. runners off guard and forced them into a rundown.
But, two throwing errors by the Sea Gulls proceeded to score all three runners, and the inside-the-park homerun gave the Lakers a 12-8 lead.
Down to its final three outs and facing a four-run deficit, Salisbury got off to a great start in the inning with a Labriola double, and back-to-back walks forced a bases loaded situation.
After a two-run single by Ardoin cut the lead to two, Oswego St. turned to Donnelly, an All-SUNYAC selection a year ago who led the team with a 2.07 earned run average (ERA). However, Donnelly threw a wild pitch to his very first batter, which scored junior Simon Palenchar and put Ardoin in scoring position.
The fans in attendance erupted when Perry took Donnelly deep on the next at-bat to give the Sea Gulls the win.
With an ugly win, the maroon and gold split the doubleheader against one of the nation’s top teams.
“Again, walks killed us and our defense is not where it should be,” coach Brohawn said. “The first game, we didn’t swing it very well, but the second game, we had some good at-bats.”
Next up for the Sea Gulls is a trip to Baltimore to face Johns Hopkins on Wednesday.
“A win is a win,” Brohawn said. “We just have to continue to get better.”