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Early grand slam, defense carry OFA baseball past Potsdam

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CANTON - The OFA baseball team didn’t let Seth Pinkerton go it alone against Potsdam Central in the Section 10 Class B championship game on Friday.

“A couple of times I started to feel the nerves kicking in but the guys kept telling me it was okay, that they had my back. They just kept making big plays when we needed them the most,” said Pinkerton after going the distance to earn the decision as the Blue Devils bolted out to a quick lead before holding on to beat the top-seeded NAC Central Division regular season Sandstoners 5-3 at SLU’s Tom Fay Field.

Near flawless defense helped OFA overcome the 11 walks, three hit batters and four wild pitches that Pinkerton recorded over the course of the game as the Blue Devils turned two key double plays and kept Potsdam from closing the gap to one with an inning-ending play at the plate in the sixth.

“Seth struggled with his control a little at times but our defense came through with huge plays,” noted coach Tom Pinkerton. “We just had a lot of guys who came up big today. I’m just very proud of all our kids.”

Offensively, the top of the lineup rose to the occasion early for the Blue Devils. Peyton Lalonde provided an immediate spark when he turned a shallow linedrive to leftfield into a lead-off double. Jon Tayler then reached on a fielder’s choice and Pinkerton loaded the bases when he was hit by a pitch. Kinnon LaRose, who has missed several games this spring due to spring basketball commitments, then stepped up and deposited a one-strike offering over the fence in leftfield for a grand slam.

“High and inside is my favorite spot and that’s where the pitch was. I just turned on it,” LaRose recalled.

Lalone helped the Blue Devils push their lead to 5-0 in the second inning, starting when he once again stretched a short linedrive to leftfield into a double, this time with two outs. Dakota Brady followed by singling him home.

“Peyton really set the tone for us,” noted coach Pinkerton. “Both times, he went flying around firstbase and turned what should have been singles into doubles. Those plays gave us huge momentum.”

After stranding four baserunners through the first two innings, the Sandstoners broke through for their first run in the third. Jacob Keleher led-off with the first Potsdam hit. He moved to second on a wild pitch then scored after back-to-back groundouts.

The Sandstoners threatened to cut the deficit in each of their next two at-bats but they were thwarted both times by inning-ending double plays, the first started with Pinkerton diving to catch the ball on a bunt attempt and ended with him catching a baserunner off of secondbase for the final out. In the fifth, the Sandstoners loaded the bases with no outs as Pinkerton hit the first batter then walked the next two. He regrouped to notch his third strikeout of the game then got the next batter to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.

After being denied the previous two innings, the Sandstoners put together a more successful two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth where Trevor Keleher singled and Jacob Keleher followed by drawing a walk. Will Coleman then cleared the bases with a long triple to the base of the fence in left-centerfield. Back-to-back walks loaded the bases once again but the Blue Devils cut the comeback short when a botched pick-off attempt by Pinkerton to Brady at firstbase ended with Brady throwing a strike back to homeplate to catch Coleman trying to race in from third. Potsdam had two baserunners on in the seventh before a groundout ended the game.

“OFA came ready to play. They got those four runs and that put us in a big hole early,” said Sandstoner coach Chris Donah after his squad ended the season at 13-3.

“We just had too many missed opportunities. You can’t have as many chances as we had an not get the runs and expect to win too many games,” he added. “Our kids kept fighting and they showed a lot of fire. We just couldn’t get the big hit we needed and OFA made the plays when they needed to.”

Coleman settled down after giving up five runs in the first two innings by shutting out the Blue Devils the rest of the way in being tagged with the complete-game loss. He finished with eight strikeouts while walking none, hitting two batters and allowing six hits.

By reversing a pair of regular season losses to the Sandstoners, OFA improved to 8-5 and earned a second straight trip to the NYSPHSAA playoffs which get underway next Friday. The Blue Devils are slated to face Section 7 champion Saranac Central at Tom Fay Field starting at 4:30 p.m.

CLASS B SOFTBALL

In the Section 10 Class B softball championship game at SUNY Potsdam on Friday, OFA completed a 2014 season sweep against Central Division rival Canton Central by pulling away to a 21-1 five-inning victory.


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