Utica, N.Y. – The Utica Brewers and Newark Pilots split a doubleheader Wednesday night at Murnane Field. The Pilots took the opening game 4-1, but the Brewers were able to come back and earn the split in the night cap, erasing a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 in extra innings.
Game 1 pit two of the PGCBL’s top starting pitchers against each other, as Newark’s Logan Harasta (Buffalo) and Utica’s Michael Messier (Bellarmine University). The Brewers struck first in the second inning with a sacrifice fly from Dan Vucovich (Holy Cross). The Pilots tied things up in the fifth with a sac fly of their own, courtesy of James Baer (Delta College). They would eventually take the lead for good in the sixth on an RBI double by Mark Martin (Le Moyne). Utica relievers Krystien Johnson-Batillan (Davenport University) and Tim Benner (Tiffin) gave up two runs in the top of the seventh before Vinny Martin (Iona) shut the door and picked up the save in the bottom of the inning to secure the Pilots’ victory. Harasta earned the win, throwing six innings of one-run ball while giving up four hits, striking out five, and walking only one. Despite a great effort, Messier was dealt the loss. Messier, who entered the night with a league-best ERA of 0.35, gave up two runs on four hits while striking out seven and walking one over six innings.
The Brewers started off hot in the first inning of Game 2, with Ryan Cox (Kutztown), their hottest hitter, singling in Aaron Smith (Wake Forest). The Pilots retaliated with three runs off of Utica starter Peter Beattie (UC Riverside). Kyle Norman (San Francisco) started the scoring with an RBI single to tie it up. Two batters later, Mark Martin drove in Norman on a double. This was followed up by an RBI groundout off the bat of catcher Michael Lanza (Bryant). The Pilots would add another run in the fourth to extend the lead to 4-1. Although they were knocked down, the Brewers never counted themselves out. And in the bottom of the fifth, they would finally catch the break they so desperately needed. The Brewers loaded the bases with no one out and would make the most of the opportunity. Thanks to an error by second baseman Brian Dudek (Buffalo), two runs crossed the plate to make it only a one-run ballgame. Taylor Olmstead (Connecticut), the next batter, would tie it up as he drove in Mason McClellan (Charleston Southern) on a fielder’s choice. The game would remain a stalemate and went into extra innings. The Brewers started the bottom of the ninth with a single from Aaron Smith. After a sacrifice bunt from Kyle Schade (St. Andrew’s University) and a McClellan pop out, the stage was set for Cox to try to be the hero. Cox would hit a long and towering fly ball into right field off of Vinny Martin, but the ball was dropped by Blake Valley (San Francisco), which allowed pinch runner Jared Baldinelli (St. Bonaventure) to score the winning run. This would give the Brewers their second walk-off win in as many nights. It also kept them only a half-game back of the Pilots for third place in the tight West division race. Kent Axcell (Ohio State), who worked a perfect ninth inning, earned the win for Utica while Bret Viola (Stevens) was handed the loss for Newark.
The Brewers (12-17) will travel to Little Falls Thursday night for an encounter with the rival Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs for their next contest with first pitch set for 6:35 p.m. As for the Newark Pilots (12-16), they will also be in action on Thursday night, as they will host the Victor RailRiders for a 7:05 p.m. game.