By Pete Chiodo
April 5, 2013 7:00 a.m. COCHRANTON —
It took a few innings for the Cochranton baseball team to shake off some winter rust mixed with a little first-game jitters. But soon enough, the Cardinals got their spring groove in motion, bouncing back from a 2-0 deficit to beat non-region foe Oil City 7-5 on Thursday at Cochranton High School.
“I was worried at first,” said Cochranton’s John Svirbly, who picked up his first win as head coach in the game. “The bats didn’t quite get going around. ... Then we started getting a little more patient at the plate and started to get a little more confident. That was huge for us.”
Oil City’s starting pitcher Tony Chmiel kept Cochranton hitless through the first four innings. In the meantime, the Oilers racked up a 2-0 lead thanks to a single by Ben Perry and a pair of errors by the Cardinals’ defense in the second inning.
Oil City had opportunities to extend that lead, putting runners on base in every inning of the game. But Cochranton catcher Caleb Peterson kept the Oilers in check, gunning down all four of their attempts to steal bases — three at second base and even one at third.
“That’s the best I’ve ever done,” Peterson admitted.
“That was pretty sweet,” said Svirbly. “(Peterson) takes a lot of pride in stuff like that.”
Cochranton’s No. 7 hitter Josh Wagner finally broke Chmiel’s spell in the bottom of the fifth. With Cody Nageotte on base with a walk, Wagner belted an 0-2 pitch into the gap in right center for a double, putting both runners in scoring position.
Chmiel was then pulled and Cullen Flaherty took over on the mound.
“Tony did a nice job,” said Oil City’s first-year head coach Adam Best. “He’s a senior. I think he and our catcher did a nice job of mixing up pitches, location. He had the no-hitter going. It would have been nice to see that through. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Flaherty got the next batter to strike out. But with one out remaining, Cochranton found time to tack on four more runs.
Matt Silloway knocked a pitch into the dirt in front of Oilers catcher Andrew Pikna. Pikna’s throw to first pulled Perry off the bag and allowed Silloway to arrive safely and Nageotte to score from third.
Jake Yarnell kept the inning going with walk. Then A.J. Nageotte hit a grounder to third. Hunter French’s throw to first was off the mark, allowing both Wagner at Silloway to score, putting the Cards in front 3-2.
Jesse Staudt then hammered an 0-1 pitch to the fence in left field. It was just inches from leaving the park, but long enough to score Yarnell and A.J. Nageotte, making it 5-2 Cochranton.
“(Staudt) smoked that one,” said Svirbly. “He didn’t try to kill it. Nice, easy swing. When he takes his time, he can drive the ball like that every time.”
Oil City got a run back in the sixth. The Oilers loaded the bases with no outs. But A.J. Nageotte worked out of the jam, allowing just the one run to score on a sacrifice fly by Flaherty.
The Cardinals then added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth. Peterson led it off with walk. Cody Nageotte moved him over with a sac bunt. And Wagner scored him with his second double of the game.
Wagner led the Cards on offense, going 2-for-3 with four total bases, two runs scored and one RBI. All this came after a nervous-looking three-pitch strikeout in the third inning.
“I still had some jitters,” said Wagner. “I didn’t really know what to expect. But I kept my eye on the ball and everything followed through.”
After Wagner’s hit, R.J. Boozer then zipped a come-backer to the mound. It deflected off Flaherty’s glove and landed just out of reach of second baseman Wes Lang, allowing Wagner to come home. The Cardinals now led 7-3.
Those insurance runs would prove to be the difference In the top of the seventh, Oil City scored two runs on three straight singles and two more Cardinals errors.
A.J. Nageotte finally got OC’s 8 and 9 batters to hit into outs, earning him the save with two unearned runs on four hits with one strikeout and one walk over two innings.
Silloway earned the win on the mound, pitching one inning with one run on two hits and four walks.
They both followed a strong start by Ryan Northcott, who yielded two unearned runs on five hits with three Ks over the first four frames.
Flaherty took the loss for Oil City, giving up five runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts over an inning and two-thirds.
Chmiel finished the game with two unearned runs on one hit and two walks with five strikeouts in four and a third.
The Oilers left 11 runners on base in the game.
“We didn’t come out on the winning side, but our kids didn’t give up,” said Best. “That’s the big thing. You can build off of that. It is frustrating to get all those guys on. But we can grow from that.”