LAKELAND, Fla. — The Plattsburgh State baseball team lost a tough one in the first game of a doubleheader against nationally-ranked Washington & Jefferson College on Sunday.
And when the Presidents pushed across an unearned run with two outs in the top of the seventh inning of the second game to tie it, the Cardinals were in danger of suffering another disappointment.
But pinch-hitter Casey Brighton’s two-out, run-scoring single in the bottom of the inning lifted Plattsburgh (1-3) to its first win of the season, 3-2, in the RussMatt Invitational.
Washington & Jefferson (4-1) held on for a 5-3 victory in the opener.
“After losing the first game like we did, if we would have lost the second game everybody would have been hanging their heads,” Plattsburgh coach Kris Doorey said. “The first win is sometimes the hardest to get.”
In the second contest, Plattsburgh took a 2-1 lead into the seventh. But an infield error, sacrifice bunt, infield grounder and Michael Beerman’s two-out single to right field put the Presidents into a 2-all tie.
But in the bottom of the inning Tommy Verdino was hit by a pitch, with one out, and Matt Meunier went into the game to pinch run. Nicholas Lupo then bunted Meunier to second and following an intentional walk to John Casten, Brighton delivered his game-winning hit to right center.
“We gave some other guys who haven’t played yet a chance to play in the second game,” Doorey said. “Verdino was one of them and he made the most of his opportunity by getting on base twice.
“We then bunted with one out and Lupo got the bunt down with two strikes on him. They walked Casten intentionally, but Brighton singled. There was a play at the plate, but it wasn’t that close.”
The Cardinals got a strong pitching performance from Brian Burns, who went the route allowing eight hits, one earned run and no walks while striking out four. Burns outdueled the Presidents’ Brian O’Neill, who also went the distance.
“This was only the second time Burns has started for us,” Doorey said. “He has great stuff and had to change his mindset from being a reliever to a starter. He didn’t walk anyone and was never in any real danger.”
Luke Weaver tripled for Plattsburgh, while Lupo, Casten and Brighton added the other hits.
In the first game, Washington & Jefferson held a 5-0 lead and appeared to be on its way to a fairly easy win.
The Cardinals, however, pushed across two runs in the sixth and made it plenty interesting in the top of the seventh.
Kyle McLain took over on the mound for winning pitcher Eddie Nogay, but ran into immediate trouble. Shane Houppert walked, Mike Vargues was hit by a pitch, Lupo bunted for a single to load the bases and pinch-hitter Chris Pescetti singled in a run to bring Plattsburgh to within two runs.
That was it for McLain.
Mike Vizzini came in with the bases loaded and nobody out. He struck out Weaver, got Brian Latulipe on a foul pop and fanned Mike Mulvihill to strand all three runners.
“We had a great opportunity with the bases loaded and nobody out,” Doorey said. “The pressure was on them, but we didn’t have good at-bats.
“But that’s why we’re playing teams as good as this so we can get better in these situations before the start of conference play.”
Latulipe led the Cardinals with two hits, while Pescetti, Weaver, Casten, Vargues and Lupo chipped in with one each.
Kyle Kelly went six innings in taking the mound loss. He surrendered five hits, four earned runs, one walk and struck out four.
“Kelly pitched extremely well again with just the one walk,” Doorey said.
“I feel comfortable with where we are right now. We have to scratch and claw for what we get. Our pitching did a great job and Washington & Jefferson wouldn’t have scored as many runs as they did if we played in the field the way we’re supposed to.
“They’re ranked No. 22 in the country right now and we saw their two best pitchers. But we want to play good team like this — and they are a very good team.”
The Cardinals, who are 1-1 on their trip to Florida, are back on the diamond today at 1:30 p.m. with a doubleheader against Allegheny College.
Washington & Jefferson 5, Plattsburgh 3
Plattsburgh 000 002 1 — 3 7 3
& Jefferson 103 010 x — 5 5 2
Kelly and Briggs, Casten (7). Nogay, McLain (7), Vizzini (7) and Peirish. WP- Nogay. LP- Kelly. Sv- Vizzini. 2B- Latulipe (PSU), Michalski (WJ), Reiner (WJ).
Plattsburgh 3, Washington & Jefferson 2
Washington & Jefferson 000 100 1 — 2 8 1
Plattsburgh 011 000 1 — 3 4 2
O’Neill and Schultz, Wesolek (7). Burns and Casten. WP- Burns. LP- O’Neill. 2B- Michalski (WJ). 3B- Weaver (PSU).