Kennesaw State sophomore Ronnie Freeman helped rally the Holyoke Blue Sox past the Danbury Westerners, 7-5, in a meeting of the top two teams in the New England Collegiate Baseball League's western division on Wednesday evening.
With his team trailing 5-4 in the top of the ninth, Freeman launched the first pitch he saw for a game-tying solo shot, part of a 3-for-5, two-RBI performance for the catcher. The Blue Sox then took the lead and added some insurance thanks to RBI base hits from sophomore DH Justin Ringo (Stanford) and shortstop Kris Richards (UNC-Greensboro).
To start the game, Holyoke sent sophomore righthander Kyle Hooper (UC Irvine) to the hill against Danbury freshman Mike Ford (Princeton) who came in sporting a 1.35 ERA. The scoring started early, as the Westerners, owners of a league-best .325 team batting average, put three across in the first frame. Freshman center fielder Tanner Krietemeier, (Nebraska) who leads the NECBL with a .436 average, roped a leadoff double. He scored two batters later on a hit by Tulane’s Andrew Garner. Krietemeier was recently named the league’s player of the week ending July 3.
The Blue Sox began their comeback in the third, sending two runners home off the bats of Richards and Eric Smith (Stanford). Holyoke would then add two more in the fifth, grabbing the lead off doubles from Alex Glenn (Southern Cal) and Freeman, as well as a sacrifice fly from right fielder Alex Sherrod (Southern Cal).
Danbury, which had won four straight and seven of their last eight coming in, reclaimed the lead in the seventh off another Garner base knock and a wild pitch, scoring Binghamton’s Dave Ciocchi. Kreitemeier, Garner and Ciocchi came into the game with the league’s top three averages, all of which were above .400.
That set the stage for the Blue Sox’s wild ninth which was capped off by a save from Stanford’s Elliot Byers, his second of the year. Kreitemeier, Garner and Tyler Horan (Virginia Tech), the league leader in RBIs, each had multi-hit games for the Westerners, and Freeman, Glenn and Richards led the Holyoke bats. Yale sophomore Christopher O’Hare recorded his first win in relief.
Across the country, winning ways continued for the West Coast League’s Wenatchee AppleSox and Bellingham Bells. Wenatchee, two-time defending league champions, have gotten off to a torrid start at 23-5 and lead the league as a team in every significant hitting and pitching category. However, the AppleSox needed a run in the bottom of the 10th for a walk-off win against Cowlitz on Wednesday.
Freshman Payden Cawley Lamb (Gonzaga) who leads the WCL with a .416 average, had two hits, and Adam Nelubovich (Washington State) went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and his league-best fifth home run.
The Bellingham Bells, winners of eight straight, have battled their way back to .500 and are in second place behind Wenatchee. During their current hot streak, the Bells have won five one-run games and have surrendered one-run or less in each of their last five outings.
On Wednesday, Richie Ochoa, a big sophomore lefthander out of Washington State, silenced Walla Walla en route to a 2-0 shutout. Ochoa was 5-2, 3.11 with two saves out of the Cougar bullpen this spring.
Meanwhile, in the Northwoods League, several teams were already playing games with postseason implications. With one day to go in the first half of the season, three teams in the South Division had an opportunity to guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs; the playoff format pits the first-half champion against the second-half champion from each division to determine the World Series.
Going into the day, the Madison Mallards needed a win against Eau Claire to clinch. The Express were also in the hunt and needed a win and a Battle Creek Bomber loss to move on. Eau Claire did their part, dousing the Mallards’ hopes with a three-run fifth inning, highlighted by an RBI single from Gabby De Verona (Des Moines Area CC). Logan Ehlers, an interesting redshirt freshman from Nebraska, and Tony Vocca and Miguel Silva, both from Yavapai (Ariz.) JC, held the Madison bats in check just enough for the 7-5 win.
The Mallard loss gave Battle Creek a win-and-in scenario, and they took full advantage, dominating Wisconsin, 8-2. The Bombers were led at the dish by Central Michigan sophomore shortstop Jordan Dean and Western Illinois sophomore left fielder Dan Dispensa, who had three hits apiece. Troy Forton, a junior from Western Michigan, threw seven two-run innings to garner his fourth victory of the summer, none more important than this.
Three red hot first-place teams fell Wednesday night, including Northwoods first-half North Division champion Mankato, who saw their seven-game win streak come to an end. The Bethesda Big Train, winners of 13 of their last 15 in the Cal Ripken League, fell to Youse’s Orioles 8-0. Bethesda is now 22-6, with three of their losses coming to the O’s.
The Harrisonburg Turks, the top team in the Valley League and winners of 9 of 10 heading into Wednesday, fell to the Haymarket Senators, 5-2.
There were also several notable performance on the Cape. Leading the way was Cal catcher and White Sox 13th-rounder Chadd Krist, who debuted for Hyannis going 3-for-4 with two runs in the Harbor Hawks’ 5-3 win. Steve Selsky, the Reds' 33rd-rounder out of Arizona, went 4-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI in a 5-5 tie between Orleans and Cotuit. Stanford’s Stephen Piscotty was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and also threw a scoreless inning in relief, but it wasn’t enough as Yarmouth-Dennis fell to Harwich, 9-5.