By Rob Potter
MOUNTAINDALE August 4, 2006 Any baseball player, coach or fan can tell you that good pitching and good defense are vital to having success on the diamond.
There was plenty of excellent pitching and stellar defense on display Tuesday night at Baxter Stadium in Mountaindale as the Dutchess Tigers and Sullivan Spartans met in the second game of their Collegiate Baseball League (CBL) best-of-3 semifinal series.
But after eight scoreless innings, Dutchess used another key attribute of a successful baseball team timely hitting to grab a 2-0 lead. The Tigers then held Sullivan scoreless in the bottom of the ninth to record the 2-0 victory.
The win, coupled with a 6-0 triumph in Sundays series opener, propelled the Tigers to the CBL championship series versus the defending league champion Wappingers Yankees. The first game of the best-of-3 title series was scheduled to be played last night.
Sullivan pitcher Travis Steffens held Dutchess (23-7) scoreless for eight innings, but the Tigers were able to claw two runs off him in the top of the ninth.
Thomas DAntono led off the frame by dragging a bunt between the pitchers mound and first base. By the time Steffens fielded the ball, DAntono was crossing first base.
DAntono stole second base to put himself in scoring position. After Steffens recorded a strikeout, Paul Panik ripped a double to left field. DAntono scored on the hit to give Dutchess a 1-0 lead.
Panik moved to third base on a passed ball and scored moments later when Michael Carozza reached on an error.
Sullivan (22-18) tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth, however. David Babcock singled to right field with two outs to put runners on the corners. He then stole second base to put himself into scoring position.
But Tigers pitcher Dan OLeary, who relieved starter Jason Solotaroff in the bottom of the eighth, got Steve Cabarcas to hit a fly ball into shallow left field. Dutchess third baseman Alan Kartholl drifted back and snared the ball in his glove to end the game.
Steffens struck out six and allowed only four hits before being relieved by Everett Saul after Carozza scored. Solotaroff gave up six hits and recorded three strikeouts before OLeary took over on the mound.
Both of those guys were pitching from their gut tonight, Sullivan Coach Jed Carrier said of Solotaroff and Steffens.
Carrier added that he was going to leave Steffens in the game for as long as he could because Steffens has been on the Spartans roster for four years.
The two pitchers also received help from their fielders. In the top of the fifth, for example, Steffens got out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam thanks to a 4-6-3 double play. Then in the top of the sixth, Spartans shortstop Mike Vicciariello took a hit away from Sean Paino by catching a sharp line drive that was just inches above the grass.
With Vicciariello on second base in the bottom of the fifth, Vinnie Malzahn hit a hard ground ball down the first base line. But Dutchess first baseman Paul Partridge quickly grabbed the ball with his glove and stepped on the bag. If the ball had eluded Partridge, Vicciariello may very well have scored the first run of the game.
Carrier was pleased that the Spartans shut down the Tigers small-ball game of bunting guys over and using the hit-and-run.
But they were able to get a couple of hits in the last inning, he added.
Dutchess Co-Manager Glenn Wu was pleased with how his team performed in Tuesday nights contest.
Thats the way we like to play baseball, said Wu, who co-manages the Tigers with Thomas Carozza. We want to have solid pitching and great defense with some timely hits.
While the Spartans season ended with the disappointing loss, Carrier noted that the team had some great times this summer. He said that the team played its best baseball of 2006 at last months Albany Athletics Baseball Fest. The Spartans posted a 2-2 record and reached the championship game of the event, which was held the weekend of July 8-9.
We played very well that weekend and I think we earned respect from all of the teams we played, he said.
Following the game, Steffens reflected on his four years with the Spartans. In May, he graduated from SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica with a bachelors degree in psychology. His immediate plans are to find a job and attend some tryouts with minor league baseball teams.
This was my last game here at Baxter Stadium and I really wanted to get the win, said Steffens, a 2002 graduate of Port Jervis High School. Im going to miss playing at Baxter.
I had a lot of good times these past four years, he added. I just want to thank Jed [Carrier] for giving me the opportunity to play for the Spartans.