CM Baseball: Wildcats fall on road to Williamsport Millionaires, 7-5

By CHRIS MASSE

For The Express

WILLIAMSPORT-As the second inning concluded, Jon Zayas looked more boxer than pitcher. A painful blister on his foot had popped as he threw that inning and the Williamsport pitcher’s sock became blood-covered.

Central Mountain scored four runs that inning, but Zayas never showed he was in pain. Instead, he kept battling and shined over the next six innings. Joe Fagnano took the toughness mantle in the seventh inning and stranded the game-tying runs after they reached with no outs. Monday at Logue Field, Williamsport may not have produced its prettiest win, but it proved how determined it can be.

Zayas dominated his last four innings, Fagnano came up big when the pressure was highest and Colin Esposito ignited a go-ahead fourth-inning rally as Williamsport fought back from two one-run deficits and defeated Central Mountain, 7-5. Zayas scattered five hits in six innings, Fagnano retired the last three batters he faced and Williamsport (4-0) stayed undefeated a year after graduating seven starters.

“When we can have pitchers that can battle the way they did today I really don’t have too many complaints. Even when they don’t have their best stuff you can’t complain when they’re just hard-nosed and they don’t give in,” Williamsport coach Kyle Schneider said. “It just shows their toughness when they can do what they did today.”

What Zayas did was not let pain or a frustrating second inning keep him down. The Wildcats erased a 3-0 deficit and took a lead that inning, delivering some well-placed hits and taking advantage of two walks. At that point, Zayas already was at 47 pitches and it looked like his start might not last long.

It speaks volumes then that Zayas lasted six innings and threw just 47 pitches over his last four, twice retiring Central Mountain in order on fewer than 10 pitches. Tanner Lavelle hit a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning, giving the Wildcats a 5-4 lead but Zayas retired the last seven batters he faced from that point on. He recorded three of his seven strikeouts during that time. The left-hander improved to 2-0 and produced the gutsiest performance of his scholastic career.

“That second inning my foot was hurting. Our trainer wrapped it up and after that I felt really good,” Zayas said. “It was game time and I knew after I got wrapped up that I could deal with it. I just had to follow through. In that second inning I wasn’t following through. I was standing up while throwing. After that I knew I was going to do better and I felt like I threw better the rest of the way.”

Fagnano faced his adversity after entering in the seventh and protecting a 7-5 lead. The Maine-bound quarterback hit Zach Eck with his second pitch before Lavelle singled. Aaron Swartz bunted those runners into scoring position and then Fagnano shined his brightest.

No area quarterback led more fourth-quarter comebacks over the last two seasons than Fagnano and the senior pitcher again delivered at the perfect time. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out the next batter and then induced a game-ending groundout to shortstop Brayton Rowello as Williamsport continued its best start in three years.

“I truly trusted Joe and I knew he was going to do a good job,” Zayas said. “We depended on him and he came through.”

Lavelle often came through for Central Mountain, going 3 for 4 and twice delivering timely RBI hits. After giving Central Mountain its first lead in the second inning, Lavelle again delivered in the fourth, hitting a two-out RBI single. He also provided a key defensive play in the first inning when he threw out speedy Dallas Griess trying to stretch a lead-off double into a triple. Williamsport scored three runs that inning and had Lavelle not made that snap throw the damage could have been worse.

“Tanner is a great kid. He works hard and he’s had a hot stick going,” Central Mountain coach Mike Kramer said. “It’s nice to see that he is coming up in clutch situations and is coming through.”

That is what Esposito and Dominic Birch did when Williamsport answered Lavelle’s second go-ahead RBI single by scoring three fourth-inning runs and taking a 7-5 lead. Esposito ripped a first-pitch, lead-off single before Birch worked the count and delivered a pinch-hit single. Griess bunted those two up and reached first before Brayton Rowello hit a game-tying RBI single.

Birch tried scoring on Rowello’s single and Central Mountain had him all but retired before the ball was dropped and Birch made it 6-5. Fagnano followed with a sacrifice fly, capping the scoring and giving Williamsport a two-run lead.

“You have to have confidence all the way through your lineup and on your bench. I knew what Collin and Dom are capable of doing. I see it every day,” Schneider said. “I didn’t have a second thought when Dom when in there to pinch hit. I knew he would battle and come through and he did. He battled through that at-bat and pushed a hit when we needed it and it got things rolling for us. That’s something that you can only wish for in a team when you have guys that can do that for you.”

Esposito also sparked a game-tying second-inning rally when he drew a lead-off walk. He was erased on a fielder’s choice, but Braedon Mazzante walked and Brett Moyer scored on an error. Mazzante ignited Williamsport’s first-inning rally when he slammed a one-out double to the left-center field fence. Rowello walked and Mazzante scored when a fielder’s choice resulted in an error. Carter Sagan then delivered one of the game’s key hits, lining a two-out, two-run single into center field and giving Williamsport a 3-0 advantage.

Cy Probst, Trey Gentzel and Lavelle all provided Central Mountain RBI hits in the second inning and Lavelle scored Gentzel with his fourth-inning single after Gentzel had walked and stolen second. The Wildcats had chances to hand Williamsport its first defeat and offered encouraging signs moving forward. Clean up the costly defensive miscues and Central Mountain looks like it could be dangerous once again.

“You have to take some positives out of this, but ultimately you we have to fix the sloppiness,” Kramer said. “It’s those game situations, high-pressure situations where we want them to play relaxed so we have to generate more of that in practice and help them feel more comfortable.”

WP 7, CM 5

C. Mountain 040 100 0–5 6 3

Williamsport 310 300 x–7 9 0

Caleb Shade, Zane Probst (6) and Cy Probst. Jonathan Zayas, Joe Fagnano (7) and Drake Mankey. W–Zayas, (2-0). L–Shade, (1-1). SV–Fagnano, (1).

Top Central Mountain hitters: Tanner Lavelle 3-4, 2 RBIs; Probst 1-3, RBI; Trey Gentzel 1-2, RBI, 2 R, SB. Top Williamsport hitters: Braedon Mazznate 2-3, 2B, R; Brayton Rowello 1-2, RBI, R, 2 BBs; Dallas Griess 2-4, 2B, R; Mankey 1-3; Carter Sagan 1-2, 2 RBIs; Collin Esposito 1-2, R; Dominic Birch 1-1, R.

Records: Williamsport 4-0. Central Mountain 2-3.

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