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Shirley Hits Go-Ahead Triple to Beat Salt Cats

By Cam Woodard, 07/19/21, 4:30PM EDT

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AUBURN - The Cortland Crush rallied in the top of the ninth inning to come back from a two run deficit and beat the Syracuse Salt Cats 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at Falcon Park. Syracuse was in control for the majority of the game, but Cortland pulled through in their last chance at the plate to win it on a go-ahead two RBI triple from Buzz Shirley.

“I was just thinking about driving the ball and getting a base hit,” Shirley said. “I picked the pitch I was sitting on and just happened to drive it over the center fielder's head, and it felt pretty good. Things just happen to fall in your way sometimes and we came out on top, it was exciting.”

The Crush struggled to produce on offense early in the game courtesy of some stellar pitching from Salt Cats starter Jacob Marshall. Marshall only allowed one run on two hits and two walks while picking up 11 strikeouts through six innings of work. David Keller was the starter on the mound for Cortland and pitched five innings earning five strikeouts. Despite giving up two runs in the first, only one run was earned and he was still able to generate a lot of outs going forward.

The Salt Cats got on the board in the bottom of the first. Luke Smith got things going with a leadoff triple. Michael DeStefano then hit an infield single and an error by the Crush allowed Smith to score. Ater going first to third on a wild pitch, DeStefano scored on a 6-3 putout from Zack Buck who picked up the RBI.

After two scoreless innings, small ball got it done for the Crush as they answered back in the top of the fourth. Matthew Ward led off the inning by getting on base after being hit by pitch. A sacrifice bunt from Nick Pastore and a groundout got Ward to third. He scored on a passed ball to cut Syracuse's lead to just one. 

Marshall and Keller would go at it in a bit of a pitcher's duel until the seventh when Syracuse eventually extended their lead. Matthew Sorrells subbed for Keller on the mound in the sixth and was able to get the Crush out of a little jam. However after a walk to Kent Wilson and an RBI single from Arron Sisto in the bottom of the seventh, Sorrells was relieved by Jackson Krueger to get the Crush out of the inning.

Carter Kowalczyk came in to pitch for Syracuse in the eighth inning while Jake Lombardi came in for the Crush in the bottom of the frame. Both pitchers shut the bats down. Lombardi, who picked up the win, came up big with a 1-2-3 inning to give the Crush some momentum heading into their final at bats with the score 3-1, Salt Cats.

Cortland’s offense came alive in the top of the ninth to rally and take the lead. With Nicholas Gravel on the mound for the Salt Cats, Zach Marriot hit a double with one out to get the inning started. After a walk by Colt Harris, Jason Boule was hit by pitch to load the bases. Lukas Arvantides subbed in for Gravel to try and get Syracuse out of the jam. Syracuse was able to get Marriott out at home on a fielder's choice from Javier Rosa, however Arvantides went on to earn the loss as a wild pitch allowed Harris to score. Shirley picked up the game winning hit with two outs.

“The boys were able to stay in the game and rally out,” Shirley added. “The starter for Syracuse was pretty dominant with the fast ball, pretty good, but once they took him out we saw some arms we’ve seen a lot already this year and I feel like we were just on time and ready to hit.”

With Cortland on top, Garrett Bell came in on the mound to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth and he did just that. Syracuse tried to rally as Matthew Rinaldi reached base on an error, however a strikeout from Bell and then a 4-3 double play ended their hopes of a comeback.

Getting it done in the end, Cortland was able to sneak by their rival and pick up their fifth straight win. Facing the Salt Cats again today, the Crush will have to be ready to play hard right out of the gates as Syracuse will be out for revenge after the tough loss. This time the Crush will be at home for 6:05 p.m. start at Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex.