UTICA – The Proctor Raiders seemed to have Tuesday’s Tri Valley League tilt in hand on several different occasions.
However, time after time the Notre Dame Jugglers kept fighting back. The Raiders finally got it done on Brandon Treen’s RBI double in the bottom of the seventh that gave Proctor a wild 13-12 victory at Murnane Field.
“We had a four-run lead and then a five-run lead … that’s crazy,” said Proctor head coach Dave Guido, who is in his 31st season. “We’ve been throwing well and playing good defense, but we didn’t do either today. But I have to give credit to Notre Dame. They really swung the bats well.”
Senior slugger Vincenzo Castronovo nearly hit for the cycle, finishing with three hits and six RBIs, three coming on a towering home run that cleared the center field wall in Proctor’s four-run fifth inning that gave them a seemingly comfortable 12-7 lead.
Robert Conley also had three hits and two RBIs for the Raiders, while Anthony Giglio, Dave Antone and Manny Cooper had two hits apiece for the Raiders (1-0, 2-1). Eli Neth, DeAndre Linder and Connor Grey each had three hits, and Zach Brush and Noah Bushey had two apiece for the Jugglers (1-2, 1-3).
The Jugglers chipped away with three in the sixth and two in the seventh to knot the game.
“We battled back all game,” Notre Dame head coach Jake DerCola said. “They put up six on us in the second and our guys didn’t panic. We battled back. Then they hit a home run and we battled back again. It was one of our better games. We had a good hitting performance and despite the loss I think we played well and this will make us better.”
The damage could’ve been worse for Proctor if not for a great defensive play by Felix De Asa De La Cruz and some clutch pitching by Cooper, who struck out two of the final three batters he faced.
That set up Proctor’s bottom of the seventh as Castronovo walked and stole second. DerCola decided to intentionally walk cleanup hitter Antone to keep the force play as an option and it worked as relief pitcher Joe Howard induced Chris Godlewski to ground to third and Grey forced out Castronovo for the first out.
With two outs, Treen, who was 0-3 with a walk through his first four at-bats, drove a shoulder-high two-strike fastball to right-center for the walk-off hit.
“I was just trying to get on base anyway I could,” said Treen. “It was up but good enough to hit. I was struggling and to come through with a big hit to win the game feels really good.”
The Jugglers jumped out to a quick lead in the first as Proctor starter Josh Raymer struggled early to find the strike zone. Brush and Neth drew five-pitch walks and Linder gave the Jugglers a 1-0 lead with a double to left. Neth then was awarded home after a balk by Raymer to make it 2-0.
The Raiders responded with two of their own in the bottom half of the first as Giglio, Cooper and Castronovo strung together three straight singles to start the inning. The Jugglers regained a two-run lead with two more in the second on hits by Grey, Brush, Neth and Linder.
That was the last lead for the Jugglers as the Raiders put up a six-spot in the bottom half by sending 11 batters to the plate. Conley started things with a single to left. De La Cruz and Raymer followed with RBI doubles to make it 4-3.
Consecutive errors by the Jugglers helped the Raiders tie the score, and then Castronovo struck with a deep triple that one-hopped to the center-field wall to make it 6-4 to chase Notre Dame starter, Neth, from the game. Antone immediately greeted reliever Matt Kelly with an RBI single and came around to score on Conley’s second hit of the inning to give the Raiders an 8-4 advantage.
“Our defense was sloppy early,” Grey said. “Personally, I had an error, but we cleaned it up later in the game.”
After a scoreless third, Notre Dame, with the help of some shoddy defensive work by the Raiders, cut the lead to 8-7 with a three-run frame. Grey jumpstarted the offense with a one-out single to left and Bushey followed by drawing a walk. An error by Cooper on a hard-hit grounder by Brush scored Grey to make it 8-5 and Guido went to Cooper to relieve Raymer.
A fielder’s choice by Linder drove in Bushey to make it 8-6. With two out and runners on first and third, the Jugglers inched to within 8-7 as Brush scored while the Raiders tried to gun out a stealing Linder at second base.
“It shows that we are resilient and we expect to come back and we are never out of the game,” said Grey, a senior third basemen. “If we get down we aren’t going to put our heads down. We can look back at this game for inspiration if we get down going forward.”
In the bottom of the fifth, the Raiders extended their lead as Giglio reached on an error and Cooper walked to set up Castronovo’s three-run blast to make it 11-7.
“I was seeing it really well today,” said Castronovo, a lefty batter, who is headed to play for Division 1 Bryant University in the fall. “I just had to relax up there. That’s the biggest thing for me.
“I have hit a few to right but never to center,” said Castronovo, said of his past homers at Murnane. “It was low and I went down and got it. I had a feeling it was gone when I hit it.”
Guido shook his head when asked about Castronovo’s performance at the plate.
“What can you say about him?” Guido said of his senior center fielder. “I’ve been at this field for a long time and it’s probably the farthest ball I’ve seen hit to center field. It probably went 415 feet.”
The Raiders extended the lead to five as Antone singled and scored on Conley’s RBI triple to left, but the Jugglers wouldn’t back down.
After plating three runs in the sixth, Howard pitched a scoreless bottom of the sixth to give the Jugglers a chance.
Notre Dame couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in the inning as Bushey, Brush and Neth strung together consecutive singles to close the lead to 12-11. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Guido intentionally walked Linder to load the bases before Cooper struck out Tom Roefaro for the first out of the inning.
The Jugglers seemed to get the hit they needed to take their first lead since the second inning, but Danny Fitzgerald’s towering blast was run down by De La Cruz in deep left field. The sacrifice fly brought Brush home with the game-tying run. Cooper then got out of the inning by striking out Howard with a nasty curveball to set up Treen’s heroics.
“He was up with people on base throughout the game and didn’t do much but he came through at the end when we needed it,” Guido said of his junior. “He’s a strong kid and just needs playing time because he can really swing it.”
Castronovo was pleased to get the victory and liked the grit both teams displayed.
“We are a fighting team,” Castronovo said. “They battled. We battled. It was a good fight and it’s nice to get the win.”
Proctor 13, Notre Dame 12
Notre Dame 220 303 2—12 14 4
Proctor 260 040 1—13 15 3
W: Manny Cooper. L: Joe Howard. HR: Proctor, Vincenzo Castronovo. 3B: Proctor, Castronovo, Robert Conley. 2B: Brandon Treen, Conley, Felix De Asa De La Cruz, Josh Raymer; Notre Dame, Eli Neth, DeAndre Linder.
Records: Notre Dame 1-2, 1-3; Proctor 1-0, 2-1.
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org