The Elmira Pioneers came into Friday night's game in Watertown on a six game losing streak as well as having not won a game on the road yet this season. Both of these trends were stopped on Friday night as the Pios came out strong and hung on to complete the victory finally seeing a shut down effort from their bullpen.
Elmira came out in the first inning and saw each of their first six hitters reach base and a complete trip around the lineup to earn them four runs. Andrew Sexton took a leadoff walk, which was followed up with Jeff Mejia being hit by a pitch. Preston Moore singled which drove in Sexton, but Mejia over ran second base and was tagged out. Mason Ruhlman came up and was hit by a pitch, to be followed by Garrett Schultz who hit one through the third baseman's legs on a bounce marked as an error to load the bases. Nathan Berg singled to score another run and keep the bases loaded. Cam Redding made the second out as he struck out swinging. Kyle Richardson hit a slow roller to the shortstop who was eaten up by a bad bounce driving in two more runs for the Pioneers. Brennen Dorighi flied out to center to end the inning.
Despite the huge outpouring of offense in the first inning Watertown came back in the bottom half against hurler Neftaly Severino Cronier. After an error at short the lead off batter, Emil Matti sat at second base. Matti moved to third on a ground ball out and was driven in by a James Krick single with two outs.
The Pioneers came back in the second inning as Mejia walked, followed by a Moore double had runners on second and third. After a dropped third strike on Ruhlman the catcher threw down to first and Mejia crossed the plate to get back the run. Moore came around on a Schultz single the next at bat giving Elmira a 6-1 advantage.
The Rapids came back in the bottom half of the second and third tallying a run in each inning to make it 6-3 before Cronier pitched a perfect fourth. The bottom of the fifth saw one more run cross the plate and the end of Neftaly's day as the Pios went to the bullpen with a 6-4 lead.
As Kevin Teschko entered the game a familiar story seemed to unravel as the first two batters reached base and stood poised at second and third seemingly ready to tie the ball game, however Teschko settled down and struck out two of the next three and the other grounded out keeping the runners where they were for a perfect inning of relief in the sixth.
The seventh inning saw newcomer Nathan Peng take to the mound. Peng got a very quick ground out before walking himself into trouble on 12 straight pitches loading the bases. After a meeting on the mound Peng was able to strike out Nate Chase for the second out, but an error at third on the next batter Derek Kasperzyk allowed a run to score closing the gap to 6-5 before Peng struck out Emil Matti for the final out of the inning.
The Pioneers turned to a fielder in the eighth as Nathan Berg brought his 0.00 ERA to the mound and quickly showed why in a season that has not been kind to Elmira relievers he has been a force. Berg struck out the leadoff batter and got two fly balls to end the eighth inning very quickly.
As the game moved into the ninth the Pioneers had been stifled offensively since the second inning. After two quick outs and Ruhlman approaching the plate the thoughts had already turned to the bottom of the ninth and the curiosity of who would try to close out the game. However, Mason swung hard and nailed a pitch over the right field wall for the Pioneers first home run of the season and a much needed insurance run.
Berg moved back out off the dugout looking to replicate his perfect eighth inning and close out the first road victory for Elmira this season and he did exactly that with a strike out and two fly outs again for a six out save for the Xavier freshman.