MONTICELLO After a gritty comeback by the Monticello Panthers, the visiting John S. Burke Eagles scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to pull out an 8-6 victory Tuesday afternoon in the opening game of the 2012 baseball season for both teams.
Monticello (0-1) took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on Burke miscues and Devon Chester’s RBI single.
In the top of the third after Panthers starting pitcher Connor Briggs was in complete command of the Eagles lineup, he felt discomfort and was forced to leave the game. The Eagles tied the game at 3-3 in that frame on Tom Sullivan’s two-run double.
A cavalcade of arms strolled to the mound for Monticello to keep the game close as Burke (1-0) scored two runs in the top of the fifth aided by a fielding and throwing error by Monti third baseman Shane Jackson.
Monticello hung around and then scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to take a 6-5 lead. Sean Reuss hit and RBI double and Chester scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
The Eagles started the top of the seventh with a leadoff double by Paul Rapoli. Following an intentional walk to Sullivan, Drew Lallathin dumped a single into left field to load the bases with no outs. Jackson, who was now on the mound for the Panthers, induced Paul Degan to hit a comebacker and Jackson forced out Rapoli at home plate. But the return throw to first base for a potential double play was high, leaving the bases loaded with one out.
Jackson then struck out Brad Howerter to give Monticello a chance to pull out the victory with the bases loaded and two outs. But Joe Grasso hit the first pitch he saw from Jackson into the right center field gap for a bases-clearing triple.
Monticello was unable to muster anything in the bottom of the seventh and Burke hung on for the 8-6 win.
“We need to be on point in effort and execution with our ballclub as we don’t have the talent to win on talent alone,” Monticello Coach Mike Marra said. “Today we had the effort, but weren’t able to execute when we needed to.”
Rapoli and Sullivan paced the Burke offense as they each went 2-for-3. Sullivan added two RBIs, while Rapoli had one RBI.
Grasso was 1-for-3 with his three-run triple, which proved to be the game-winning hit.
Jack Drapkin, Jackson and Reuss led the Panthers at the plate. Drapkin went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, Jackson was 2-for-5 with three stolen bases and two runs scored and Reuss was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.