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June 3, 2014

Cochranton slides by FCV in league opener

SAEGERTOWN — Typically, a home run hit with a wooden bat has a crisp, unmistakable sound.

Jesse Staudt’s solo shot in the eighth inning wasn’t exactly a symphony. In fact, it sounded like a harmless pop-up as it politely left his bat. Yet, the hit kept carrying, carrying — gone over the left field fence.

“I think the balls were a little dead today,” said Staudt. “None of them sounded right.

“But that one still went over.”

While it wasn’t sonically spectacular, Staudt’s sneaky tater was good enough to earn the Cochranton American Legion baseball team a 3-2 eight-inning victory over French Creek Valley during both teams’ Crawford/Venango league opener on Tuesday at the Saegertown American Legion’s Ed Acker Field.

It was Staudt’s first homer of the Legion season. “I hit one last year,” he said. “That one sounded better. But I think it always sounds good when you center a ball up.”  

This next part will also have a nice ring to it for Cochranton fans: The Bluebirds are now off to a 3-0 start to the season. Yesterday’s win follows a 6-5 victory over Corry and a 9-2 win over Fort LeBoeuf.

“We kept grinding it out,” said Cochranton coach Chuck Yarnell, who was managing the team in place of regular head coach Randy Staudt yesterday. “It was a tough game. But both of our pitchers threw well. We played good defense except for one inning. And we scored runs when we needed them.”

Staudt’s homer snapped a span of six scoreless frames for Cochranton. The ’Birds struck for two in the first inning against FCV starter Matt Thompson and then nursed the lead until Staudt came through in the eighth.

In the first, Staudt walked with one out and Caleb Peterson reached on a fielder’s choice. Then A.J. Nageotte singled to left to score Staudt. The throw to home was off the mark, allowing the remaining bases runners to move up one spot. And that permitted Peterson to later score from third on a wild pitch, making it a 2-0 ball game.

FCV wouldn’t answer that score until the sixth inning. The Creekers (0-1, 0-1 CVAL) had opportunities, getting two aboard in both the first and second innings and loading the bases in the fifth. But runs did not follow.

“Timely hitting is what it came down to,” said FCV head coach Brandon Crum. “We got guys on base. We just couldn’t get the big hit. We weren’t executing in clutch situations.”

Cochranton starter Ryan Northcott went scoreless through the first four frames, allowing four hits while striking out two.

Then relief pitcher Nate Klingler pitched the final four innings and yielded a pair of unearned runs off of one hit and six walks while fanning four for the win.

A few defensive miscues allowed the Valley boys to score their runs in the sixth.

Chase Gallo was hit by a pitch. Then Luke Basko laid down a bunt to third. The throw to first went wide, allowing Gallo to head home. Basko tried to stretch the error to third base, but was tagged out at the bag.

Later, Alan McGill struck out swinging, but the pitch in the dirt allowed him to reach base safely. Another passed ball moved McGill’s pinch runner, Dane Rhoades, to second. Then Rhoades stole third. And the throw down to third to nab him missed its mark, allowing Rhoades to tie the game at 2-2.

That’s where the score would stay until Staudt’s homer in the eighth.

FCV had an opportunity that came up short in the bottom half of the inning. Basko walked and moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt by Rhoades and a balk by Klingler.

A pitch in the dirt opened the door for Basko to take home. However, the ball ricocheted off the shin guard of the catcher, Peterson, and landed in the grass right in front of home plate. Klingler scooted off the mound and picked up the ball in time to meet Basko at home. Basko tried to dance around the tag, but was rung up for the second out.

Later, a chopper by Scott Sada died in front of the plate. He stayed in the box, thinking it was a foul ball. The ump called it fair. Peterson grabbed it and made the tag for a game-ending unassisted out.

“I think there were a couple calls that didn’t go our way,” said Crum. “But we have to be better at overcoming those instances.”

Thompson was charged with the pitching loss for FCV. He worked seven and a third innings and yielded three runs (two earned) on four hits while walking five and fanning eight.

“Matt Thompson pitched a heck of a game,” said Crum.

Rhoades, a freshman, got the final two outs of the eighth with a pop-up and a strikeout.

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