Stimpson punches Geneva’s playoff ticket with walkoff hit
Around half-past ten EST Wednesday night, the playoff scenarios in the New York Collegiate Baseball League‘s Eastern Division were as tangled as a weed bed in nearby Seneca Lake. A three-way tie for the final two playoff spots looked probable.
Then everything changed.
Once given up for dead, the Geneva Red Wings turned certain defeat into victory.
Leon Stimpson (Alvernia) capped a six-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth with a bases loaded single scoring the winning run as the Red Wings shocked the Adirondack Trail Blazers, 15-14 in front of 706 fans on Senator Mike Nozzolio Night at McDonough Park.
Down 14-9, seven straight Red Wings reached base before the league’s top closer, Geoff Soja (Niagara) came on to face Stimpson.
“His ball tails away a lot,” Stimpson said of Soja. “It’s got unbelievable movement. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pull it. I was going to have to hit it to the right side. I told myself to hit the top part of the ball. I saw it coming. I saw the top part, and I swung as hard as I can at it; man, it got through.”
Stimpson sent a one-strike offering through the ride side of a drawn infield and plated Brain Sullivan (Clark) with the tying and Joe Blair (Mid-Continent Univ.) with the winning run.
Soja came into the game having not allowed an earned run for the entire season. He is 1-0 with eight saves in 20 appearances for the second-place Trail Blazers.
Stimpson, a two-year veteran with Geneva and the club’s leadoff hitter, kept a clear head.
“Every day is a new season,” Stimpson reflected. “We found out. You can crush a team one day and come back and get demolished. It’s anybody’s ball game. He’s nasty. He’s got some real good stuff. I tried and limited his pitches.”
The wild ninth was representative of a night that could have been best described in football terms with the teams trading field goals and touchdowns throughout. On this night, the team that scored last won.
“They have gone through a lot,” Geneva coach Dave Herbst said of his team’s season. “We had a couple of key injuries and had one gentleman go sign with the (New York) Mets. We stuck with these boys, and we said everybody’s got to step up.
Jesse Puschek (Canisius) led Geneva’s last cracks with a base on balls off Sean Larson (SUNY Fredonia). Austin Bartley (Shippensburg) came out of the bullpen and surrendered the next six hits. Grant Heyman (Miami) slashed a two-strike pitch up the middle. Cameron Stimpson (Monroe CC) loaded the bases with a single through the right side.
Ricky Moses II (Southern) made it 14-11 with a hit back through the box. Brad Blumer (Cameron) loaded the bases again with an infield hit to the left side. Sullivan came on to pinch run. Blair took a 1-2 pitch the opposite way, and Geneva trailed 14-12. Robbie Enslen (Oakland) brought home Moses with an infield single before Leon Stimpson stepped to the plate.
Adirondack pounded out 16 hits and scored runs in seven different innings. The Red Wings tried to give the game away with five costly errors, but in the end Geneva outlasted their rivals.
“A walkoff win on Nozzolio night is huge. We had some makeshift positions,” Herbst explained. “Guys were forced to play out of position, but we believe in their athleticism.”
Zach Augustine (Johns Hopkins) worked a scoreless ninth for the win. He was the only pitcher of the night to retire a batter and not give up any runs.
Heyman highlighted a four-run first with a two-run blast as Geneva took a 4-2 lead. Heyman’s home run, his sixth of the season, comes after just 51 at bats on the campaign.
Puschek drove home Leon Stimpson and Chris Ray (Alvernia) as the Wings pushed three across in the third.
But the lead was short-lived.
Eric Baker (Rogers St.) walked and scored in the third. Kevin Hix (Youngstown St.) walked and scored in the fourth.
In the fifth, Adirondack scored three. Baker and Matthew Robinson (Georgia Coll & St. U.) hit back-to-back one-out singles and eventually scored. Colton Campbell (Rogers St.) reached on an error and came around on single by Kenny May (Lincoln).
Adirondack scored four more in the sixth, a run in the seventh and two in the eighth.
Robinson led the Trail Blazers with four hits and four runs scored. Baker had three hits, two walks and four runs scored.
Leon Stimpson had three hits and two RBI for the home nine.
Geneva (18-22) finishes the season in third place and will face the Trail Blazers (22-18) in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Sherrill Silversmiths (16-23) play the Syracuse Jr. Chiefs (27-12) Thursday at noon. If Sherrill loses, the Syracuse Salt Cats (17-23) advance to the playoffs. A victory by the Smitties, and the two teams will meet Thursday to decide the fourth and final team from the East.