The Rome Free Academy baseball team’s Senior Game got off to a shaky start on Thursday when the Black Knights made two miscues in the first inning, allowing Oswego to take an early lead.
Senior pitcher Ryan Reilley though had other ideas after that rough start and made the adjustments on the hill to nearly shut down Oswego’s bats completely the rest of the way, while his offense chipped away at the lead and eventually scored a 4-3 win.
A walk-off sacrifice fly by Dylan Thomas in the bottom of the seventh closed out Rome’s Central New York Counties League victory at DeLutis Field.
On an afternoon when 10 RFA seniors were honored before the game, the Buccaneers looked like they were ready to crash the party by getting the bases loaded on two Black Knight errors in the first inning before No. 6 hitter Autie Ascenzi ripped a deep, bases-clearing two-out double off a fastball by Reilley to take a 3-0 lead.
However, that would be the only real damage Oswego would do from then on as Reilley worked in his curveball more at the hitters and allowed just one hit the rest of the way while the Black Knights fought back.
"Fastball was there, and the curveball came after the first few innings," Reilley said. "A few errors gave them a few extra outs. After that we came along. It was fun out there doing what I love to do."
Reilley allowed just four hits, walked one and struck out seven for the complete-game win.
"The reason he settled down is because we talked to him about his pitching," said RFA coach Mike Davis. "When he started the game, he had nothing but his fastball and they were teeing off on it, so we said, ‘We got to get that curve working,’ and he did."
Not looking to let their teammate down, the hosts started to make a little noise in the second inning off Oswego starting hurler Tom Dillon when senior Tom Amuso hit an RBI single through the right side of the infield, and senior Steven Eychner added a grounder to bring home senior Conner Miller as second baseman Kevin Carpentier elected to take the sure out of freshman Joey Izzo at second base, making the score 3-2.
In the fifth, the Black Knights set up senior Garrett Reilley and junior Jeff Cooke on second and first with one out. It was then that Davis made the signal to the tying runner Reilley to steal third and he just beat the tag at the bag to give Thomas a chance to get him in with at least a sacrifice fly. The senior did just that on a deep fly to left field on a 3-2 count to bring home his teammate.
"The key was Garrett stealing third," said Davis. "They weren’t watching him and I said, ‘Go!’ That was a key play to tie it. Couple key plays in the game executed, and I felt good about us coming to bat with the top of the order coming up later in the seventh."
Davis’ feeling turned out to be right when the leadoff hitter Eychner got on base with a line drive single to left then was moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt by Garrett Reilley. After Oswego called for an intentional walk to Robbie Waller for a potential double play attempt, the opportunity presented itself when Cooke grounded to the shortstop Dave Coulton, but instead he made a bad toss to second. The error allowed everybody to be safe on all three bags for the next batter, Thomas, yet again, and he came through for a second time with a sacrifice fly towards right centerfield to score Eychner as the winning run.
"We only had one out, and I did my best to get a sacrifice down," said Thomas, who also made a diving catch in centerfield for an out in the fifth to keep Oswego’s Ernesto Cedillo scoring from second. "I had a few jitters a little bit (at the plate) but not much. We just hung in there, kept making good plays both in the infield and outfield. Didn’t want to give up."
Cooke and Miller ended up leading the RFA offense after finishing with two hits apiece off Dillon, who gave up nine hits and had no walks in the losing effort as Oswego fell to 6-10 overall and 4-7 in the league.
Davis said by making things happen both at the dish and on the base pads is how you win games.
"We didn’t hit the cover off the ball like [Wednesday] night, but we did just enough things," he said. "We sacrificed bunt a little bit, got the sacrifice flies when we needed them, stole a little bit obviously to win the game. That’s how you win a close game."
The contest was the Black Knights’ final league game of the season, finishing at 6-5 against CNYCL competition.
RFA also increased their overall record to 10-9 and the win, according to Davis, gives the team an opportunity at a possible home game for the Section III playoffs. The Black Knights will find that out during Sunday’s seeding meeting.
Rome was scheduled to play its final game of the regular season at Central Square this afternoon.