CORTLAND, N.Y.—The Syracuse Spartans (15-14) struggled offensively against the Cortland Crush (16-15) as Cortland defeated Syracuse 8-3 on Wednesday. The Spartans only managed four hits against the Crush pitching staff.
The game was back-and-forth during its early stages. Cortland jumped out to a 1-0 lead after a Zach Kelley RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. The Spartans grabbed the lead in the top of the second inning thanks to a two-run single from Brandon Shirley. The Crush retook the lead in the bottom of the second after scoring three runs on four straight hits.
Syracuse got one run back in the top of the third. Andrew Pedone reached first after and error by Jimmy Tatum. Pedone stole second and third base during the next at-bat. He scored after Garrett Hunter’s throw to third went into left field. At the time, the Spartans only trailed 4-3 after the top of the third inning.
That would be the closest that Syracuse would get as the Crush pulled away during the later innings. Cortland scored one run in the fifth, two runs in the sixth, and one run in the seventh to seal the win over the Spartans.
“When we did get to two strikes, we were catching too much of the plate,” said Spartans Manager Brian Burns. “The problem is we were behind a lot early. A lot of their hard-hit balls were on 2-0, 3-0, and 2-1 counts.”
The Spartans scored all three of their runs off Crush starter Jake Rajsigl. Syracuse got help from the right-hander as Rajsigl allowed three walks in four innings. Despite his control issues, Rajsigl only allowed one Spartan hit – the two-run single from Shirley in the second inning.
“[Rajsigl] did a good job throwing his breaking ball for strikes,” said Burns. “We had a lot of problems with his sharp breaking ball.”
After Rajsigl exited the game in the fourth, the combined bullpen staff of Daniel Steve, Ryan Hammond, and Maxwell Tannebaum shut down the Spartans offense. The trio only allowed three hits and struck out four Syracuse batters over five innings of relief. Steve in particular fooled Spartans hitters over three innings in relief of Rajsigl.
“[Steve] came in throwing a very good changeup,” said Burns. “We did not adjust our approach at all. We were sitting fastball and lunging at first pitch changeups. We just got to be better at pitch recognition – picking up patterns on the pitchers and paying a little bit better attention when we’re on deck.”
Stuart Martin allowed most of the Spartans runs in his sixth start of the season. He allowed five Crush runs in five innings of work. Cody Kaestle struggled in relief, only completing a third of an inning while giving up two runs. Michael Paciocco stopped the bleeding momentarily but also gave up a run in 1.2 innings of work. Joe Guerette also pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
Shirley lead the offense with two hits on the day, including his two-run single in the second inning. Pedone’s two stolen bases increases his league lead to 30 on the season. Six Spartans were held without a hit against the Crush.
The schedule for Syracuse doesn’t get easier. Thursday represents the last off-day the Spartans have before the NYCBL Playoffs begin. Syracuse is set to play at least 12 games over the next 11 days.
The Spartans return to action on Friday as they travel to Sherrill to take on the Silversmiths at 5:00 pm. Syracuse returns home on Sunday for a split doubleheader between the Rome Generals and the Cortland Crush at Blink Fitness Field at Hopkins Road Park. First pitch for the game against Rome is set for 1:30 pm and first pitch for the game against Cortland is set for 5:00 pm.