Geneva Red Wings advance with a 6-5 victory over Adirondack
GENEVA, N.Y. — Pitcher and team went looking for redemption. The hurler sought to put a disastrous start behind him. The club needed to make sense of a season of unfulfilled expectations.
Both reached their goals.
Aaron Benusis (Alvernia) notched a series-clinching win as the Geneva Red Wings defeated the Adirondack Trail Blazers, 6-5 to sweep the New York Collegiate Baseball League’s Eastern Division semi-final series at McDonough Park, Sunday afternoon.
Benusis tossed six complete striking out two, walking one, allowing five runs (two earned) on eight hits.
“Aaron needed a comeback game,” noted Geneva coach Dave Herbst. “He had that rough outing last time out, so he needed to comeback and pitch strong.”
On July 20th, Benusis could not get out of the third inning. The 6-7 right-hander allowed seven runs on five walks and three hits. The Syracuse Jr. Chiefs went on to pound the Red Wings, 22-10.
Sunday afternoon, there was no evidence of surrender in the Bristol, CT native. Colton Campbell (Rogers St.) worked a two-out full count base on balls in the first. Benusis helped Campbell into scoring position when he uncorked a wild pitch. Campbell’s brother, Cody, followed with an RBI single to give Adirondack a 1-0 lead.
It proved to be the Trail Blazers only advantage of the afternoon.
Benusis retired the side in order in the second. He faced the minimum in the third.
“I told myself to bear down,” Benusis said. “I trusted myself and my teammates and let my defense work behind me.”
Adirondack tallied a pair of unearned runs in the fourth, but by that time the Red Wings had a 4-1 lead.
Leon Stimpson (Alvernia) drilled a leadoff double into the left center field gap in the home half of the first. Stimpson’s college teammate, Chris Ray, sent a an inside-out flair into right center. When the ball got under the glove of Kevin Hix (Youngstown St.), Stimpson scampered home, and Ray alertly moved to second. Grant Heyman (Miami) put runners on the corners with a bloop single into center. Brad Blumer (Cameron) brought Ray home with a ground out to short.
Stimpson’s hit was his first of three on the day and his seventh multi-hit game in the last ten.
“I’m just trying to be more aggressive,” Stimpson said of his approach at the plate lately. “When I’m hitting well, I’m aggressive on the first pitch. I’m swinging hard. Good things are happening.”
Stimpson had an RBI single in the third as the Red Wings pasted two more on the “Big Mac” score board. Ray led the stanza with a walk and a stolen base. One out later Heyman walked. Ray moved to third on Blumer’s fly ball to right. A balk moved the runners ninety, and Stimpson made it 4-1 with his second hit of the day.
Heyman added a run in the fifth with a solo shot that caromed off the top of the McDounough Park scoreboard.
“He’s got a quick bat,” Herbst noted when asked about Heyman. “There’s no denying that. He’s feeling pretty good right now.”
The Pittsford, NY native has home runs in each of the last three Red Wing games and four in the last five going back to the regular season. Heyman has eight round trippers this summer in 61 at bats.
“To win with these guys is a lot of fun,” Heyman commented. “It’s been a good experience.”
When Benusis finally faded, the Geneva bullpen was up to the task.
Joe Bocchino (Ave Maria) came on in the seventh with the tying run on, no outs and the top of the Adirondack order coming to the plate. The right-hander struck out the first batter he faced, Eric Baker (Rogers St.), one of the hottest hitters in the league.
“Joe said before the game he felt really strong today,” Herbst explained. “Sometimes when pitchers have that feel, you got to go with them.”
Bocchino induced a pair of ground balls to get out of the inning with only one run scoring.
“I just got to put it over the plate,” Bocchino said of his mindset when he came on to face the leading run. “I was just trying to trust my defense and see if I could roll one and get out of it.”
Bocchino set the Trail Blazers down in order in the eighth.
“My fast ball on the inner half was working well,” Bocchino explained. “And the slider was working.”
He started the ninth and gave way to Zach Augustine (Johns Hopkins) with two outs and bases loaded. Augustine struck out the only batter he faced for his second save of the series and seventh of the summer.
Geneva advances to face the first-place Syracuse Jr. Chiefs with a chance for a post in the NYCBL Championship.
“It means a lot,” Bocchino said when asked about the significance of the win. ”We were in the bottom half of the division for most of the year. We started off so hot, and then we cooled off a lot. It’s nice. Our bats are starting to come around, and it’s going to mean a lot to us and the town and our fans.”
Stimpson had five hits in ten trips for the series with two RBI and two runs scored.
Heyman went two-for-two with two walks and one hit by pitch.
Cody Campbell and Alex Simone (West Alabama) had three hits each for Adirondack.
Ian Tresser (Fairfield) allowed one run in one inning of work and took the loss.
The Red Wings fell in the West Division Finals last year. They return with a chance to meet their Geneva counterparts, the Twins.
“We’re two wins away from facing each other,” said Herbst laughing. “It means a lot for the city and the community because they have been so supportive of us, welcoming the Twins and continued their strong support of the Red Wings for ten years. This has got to be a hot bed of college baseball this summer.”
The Twins will face the Niagara Power in the Western Division finals. Game times and locations TBA.