By Rob Potter
MOUNTAINDALE April 18, 2006 Following a rainy Friday afternoon and evening, Sullivan County Community College Baseball Coach Mike Marra and his players spent several hours on Saturday morning clearing water and mud from the field at Baxter Stadium.
The hard work paid off as SCCC was able to host the Rockland Community College Hawks in a Mid-Hudson Conference doubleheader.
Throughout the afternoon, bright sunshine covered the Mountaindale baseball diamond. As the teams competed, those warm rays combined with a strong breeze to dry up any remaining puddles.
By the early evening, however, the Rockland CC players and coaches were able to enjoy the sunshine and seasonable temperatures a little more than their SCCC counterparts.
The Hawks swept both contests, defeating the Generals 3-1 in the opener and prevailing 8-1 in the second game.
Rockland CC improved to 10-11 overall and 6-4 in Mid-Hudson Conference (MHC) competition. SCCC fell to 3-16-1 overall and 2-9 in the MHC.
In the first game, the Hawks scored three runs in the top of the third inning to break a scoreless tie. Danny Gonzalez singled to left field to open the frame and Luis Rosario followed with a walk to give Rockland CC two base runners with no outs.
The next batter, Chris Popkave, then executed a perfect bunt. He allowed the ball to hit his bat and sprinted to first base as the ball rolled slowly along the third baseline. Generals pitcher Lucas Garcia and third baseman Ron Phippen stood near the ball and hoped that it would roll into foul ground.
But to their disappointment, the baseball remained in fair territory and Popkave safely reached first base.
Rockland CCs John Paganotti then stepped into the batters box with the bases loaded. He promptly hit a ground ball to second base. Generals second baseman Yensy Carty fielded the ball and quickly threw it to shortstop Randy Ramirez to record one out. Ramirez fired the ball to first in an attempt to complete the 4-6-3 double play, but his throw pulled first baseman Edwin Melendez slightly off the bag.
As a result, Gonzalez and Rosario both crossed home plate and Paganotti reached first to give the Hawks runners at the corners with just one out.
Rockland CC expanded its lead to 3-0 moments later with a double steal.
SCCC tried to rally in the bottom of the fourth. After the first two batters were retired, the Generals took advantage of a hit batter, a single by Melendez and a walk to load the bases against Rockland CC pitcher A.J. Fagan. But Fagan induced a groundout to end the Generals scoring threat and the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, however, the Generals got on the scoreboard. Phil Mason led off the frame and reached base when he was inadvertently hit by one of Fagans pitches. After a strikeout, Garcia hit a bloop single to right field to give SCCC runners at the corners with just one out.
The next batter, Ramirez, ripped a single to deep center field. Mason scored easily on the base hit, which cut the Hawks advantage to a pair of runs.
Fagan responded by striking out the next Generals batter to bring Rockland CC to within one out from victory.
But Carty hit a soft ground ball to the left side of the infield to load the bases and keep the SCCC comeback attempt going.
However, Fagan got a groundout to seal the Hawks victory.
Fagan allowed only five hits and struck out 10 Generals to earn the complete-game victory.
Carty paced the Generals offense with three hits in the game.
In the second game, Rockland CC took an early lead. Luigi Guarascio led off the second inning for the Hawks and was inadvertently hit by a pitch from SCCCs Mason. Soon after reaching first base, Guarascio stole second to put himself into scoring position.
The next batter, Arturo Ledesma, bunted the ball to the right side of the infield. He safely reached base when the throw to first was errant. As Ledesma rounded first and eventually made his way to third base, Guarascio crossed home plate to give the Hawks a 1-0 advantage.
The Hawks added to their lead in the top of the third. With one out and two teammates on base, Guarascio smashed a double to right center field. Popkave and Paganotti both scored on the hit, giving Rockland CC a 3-0 lead.
SCCC scored what would be its only run of the contest in the bottom of the fourth. Jonathan Valerio led off the frame with a solid single to center field and advanced to second base on a groundout.
Following a strikeout, Mason ripped a single to left field. Valerio scored on the base hit, which narrowed the Hawks lead to 3-1.
Rockland CC ensured its victory by scoring two runs in the sixth and three in the seventh. Gonzalez recorded an RBI single in the sixth, while Ledesma and Chris Barry each stroked an RBI single in the seventh.
Rockland CC pitcher Bobby Dinuzzo struck out 10 Generals on his way to victory.
A.J. [Fagan] and Bobby Dinuzzo both threw excellent games for us today, Rockland CC Coach Chris Brescia said.
Brescia also noted that his entire team played well.
We got some timely hits this afternoon, he said. Im pleased with our performance. I think we are playing our best baseball of the season right now. We have won four of our last five Mid-Hudson Conference games.
SCCC Coach Mike Marra noted that the opening contest was a great game.
It was very well played, he said. Lucas Garcia pitched a great game for us and [A. J.] Fagan did an outstanding job on the mound for them.
Marra also thought that the Generals didnt hit consistently in either game.
But the man who helped bring baseball back to SCCC this spring after a long hiatus noted that sometimes victory is just not meant to be.
We played pretty well today, but Rockland was better, Marra commented. In that case, you just tip your hat to them and move on with your season.
Notes: SCCC was scheduled to play at Manhattan Community College yesterday afternoon.
The Generals will return to Baxter Stadium this Saturday, April 22 when they host Westchester Community College in a Mid-Hudson Conference doubleheader. The first game is slated to begin at noon.