By Rob Potter
LIBERTY July 18, 2003 Sullivan County Phillies Coach Tom Pazzalia had a simple message for his team Wednesday night.
It doesnt get any better than that, Pazzalia said to his players after they jogged off the baseball field at Liberty Central School.
What Pazzalia was referring to was the Phillies rally from an early six-run deficit to defeat the Minisink Warriors, 11-10, in a non-league baseball game.
Minisink scored four runs in the top of the first and added a pair of runs in the third to grab a 6-0 lead. The Warriors extended their advantage to 9-2 in the fourth inning. But the Phillies gradually chipped away at the lead.
An RBI double by Corey VanKueren in the bottom of the fifth brought the Phillies to within 9-7.
In the bottom of the sixth, Troy Kirchner led off with a triple and scored two batters later when Brandon Scott beat out an infield grounder. After Dan Walter reached base on a walk, Scott scored the tying run when Connor Noetzel ripped a single to center field.
Jason Garritt then walked to load the bases. Casey Pazzalia then stroked a single down the left field line to bring both Scott and Noetzel across the plate and give the Phillies an 11-9 lead.
However, Minisink did not go quietly in the seventh as Joe Myhren scored on an error to make it a one-run game.
But Phillies pitcher Mike Cook, who entered the game at the beginning of the inning in relief of VanKueren, struck out Mike Collins to preserve the win.
That was quite a game, Tom Pazzalia said. We were down six runs, but the kids were great and they kept fighting. Im really happy, it was a good team effort.
The Phillies improved their record to 4-12 overall on the season, while Minisink fell to 20-14-1. (The game was a non-league contest, as Sullivan County is a 15-and-under team and Minisink is a 16-and-under team.)
Thats a good team over there and you have to give them a lot of credit, John Hillman, who co-manages the Warriors with Kevin McGrath, said of the Phillies. They kept battling and never gave up. We had nice lead and kind of let up a little. That just shows you that you need to play hard for all seven innings.
The Phillies began their comeback in the bottom of the third. With two outs and Peter Panagakos, who led off the frame with a single, and Dan Walter, who walked, on base, Garritt hit the ball to deep right field. Panagakos and Walter scored on the hit, but Garritt was cut down at home plate on a fine relay from rightfielder Nick Damiano to shortstop Danny Knox to catcher Greg Brain.
After the Warriors scored three runs in the top of the fourth to take a 9-2 lead, the Phillies recorded three runs in the bottom of the inning. Brandon Katz smashed an RBI triple to right field to score Casey Pazzalia. Katz then crossed home plate when the throw into third base was errant.
Later in the inning, Panagakos hit an RBI triple and Dan Belgard followed with a single to score Panagakos as the Phillies cut the Warrior lead to 9-6.
Pazzalia noted that the Phillies lost to Minisink twice earlier this season. Last month, the Warriors defeated Sullivan County in a game that ended early due to the 10-run mercy rule. Two weeks ago, Minisink won by a 5-4 margin.
The coach added that the victory over Minisink should give his players some confidence when they play in a tournament the weekend of July 26-27 in Scranton, Pa.
They are a quality team, an all-star type team, Pazzalia said of the Warriors. Hopefully, playing well enough to beat a team like that is something we can carry with us and see what we can do with it in Scranton.