By Rob Potter
MONTICELLO April 13, 2007 The non-league baseball game which took place on Wednesday afternoon between the visiting James I. O’Neill Raiders and the Monticello Panthers featured a little bit of everything.
There was outstanding pitching, good defense and timely hitting on the part of both teams.
However, the Raiders had a few more clutch hits, which allowed them to recover from a 3-0 deficit and record a 7-3 victory over the Panthers.
O’Neill improved to 1-3, while Monticello fell to 0-1.
But for more than half of the game, it appeared as though one run might be all either team could muster as starting pitchers Jimmy Doonan of O’Neill and Mike Hughes of Monticello were allowing very few hits and no runs. Through four innings, Doonan allowed just two hits while recording a pair of strikeouts, while Hughes gave up only one hit and struck out three batters.
“You don’t see a pitcher’s duel in early April too often,” O’Neill Coach Kenny Hall said. “Both pitchers were throwing the ball well, they were really on.
“But I think they started to get tired late in the game,” he added.
Hall was referring to the fifth and sixth innings, when the two offenses were finally able to do some damage against Doonan and Hughes.
The Panthers got to Doonan in the bottom of the fifth. Erik Mayberg led off the inning with a bloop single that landed just inside the right field line about 20 feet behind first base. He then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jesse Campanaro.
The next batter, Anthony Williams, ripped a double down the left field line, which allowed Mayberg to score the game’s first run.
Chris Vaquedano then singled to right center, which brought Williams in to score.
After Hughes singled to put runners at the corners, Hall brought in Mark DiLorenzo to replace Doonan on the mound. DiLorenzo was called for a balk, which allowed Hughes and Vaquedano to move up to second base and third base, respectively.
But DiLorenzo recovered to get a strikeout.
Josh Cohen then beat out a grounder to shortstop to keep the inning going. Vaquedano crossed home plate on the play to extend the Panthers’ advantage to 3-0.
However, the Raiders wasted little time in tying the score and taking the lead.
With one out in the top of the sixth, DiLorenzo reached base on a bloop single behind first and the next batter, Wesley Judd, was hit by a pitch. Roger Kelly then beat out an infield grounder to load the bases.
John Franceshine hit a line drive down the right field line, which allowed DiLorenzo and Judd to score.
Monticello Coach Rob Keesler then brought in John Lacey to replace Hughes on the mound.
Jim Belladone greeted Lacey with a single to center and Kelly scored the tying run on the hit.
Moments later, Franceshine gave O’Neill a 4-3 advantage when he scored on an infield single by Justin Myers.
The Raiders added to their lead in the top of the seventh. Belladone had an RBI triple and Thomas Leahy added an RBI single as O’Neill took a 7-3 advantage.
DiLorenzo held the Panthers scoreless in the bottom of the seventh to preserve the win for the Raiders.
“In our other games, we were not able to sting a lot of hits together,” Hall said. “But we did that today and got some two-out hits. We had some good at-bats and were able to hit the ball behind the runners to right field that was great to see.”
Keesler concurred with Hall about the performances of Doonan and Hughes.
“Both starters were very solid,” Keesler commented. “They pitched well, especially on such a cold day.
“And both defenses did a nice job,” he added.
Keesler was especially pleased with the way the Panthers turned a 4-6-3 double play to end the top of the fourth.
“Both teams gave a great effort today,” he said. “The difference was that O’Neill just didn’t make any mistakes.”
While he was disappointed with the loss, Keesler noted that he was very pleased with the way the Panthers hustled and played hard throughout the contest.
“This is only our second time out on the field,” he commented. “We also have a lot of first-year ballplayers. But I think we’ll be OK as the season moves along.”