Eagles taking flight

By on April 24, 2019

Down Spartans, 5-1 for fifth-straight victory

Cocalico’s Gerald DeBalko slides back safely into first base during Tuesday’s Section Three showdown at Garden Spot. Photo by Travis Boyd

Cocalico’s Gerald DeBalko slides back safely into first base during Tuesday’s Section Three showdown at Garden Spot. Photo by Travis Boyd

When Austin Ruzika-Porter’s first inning blast sailed over the scoreboard in left-center field Tuesday, keying a three-run Cocalico first, more than anything it allowed the Eagles to relax.

Starting pitcher Tristen Current settled in, the Eagles played near flawless defense, and Cocalico rode it out for an eventual 5-1 road victory at Garden Spot.

Current went five solid frames, allowing one run on six hits before giving way to Ian Martin, who shut the door with a pair of easy innings to salt away their fifth-straight victory.

“Defensively we played really well…we weren’t too tight at all,” said Cocalico assistant Ross Rutt, who ran the team with head coach Mike Bertolino out with an illness. “Our pitching staff has been great all year, keeping us in games, and today was no exception. And we got key hits here and there. That’s has plagued us and helped us this season. The lack of a key hit in a big situation, but lately we’ve been getting that key hit.”

There was no bigger one than Ruzika-Porter’s bomb off Garden Spot starter Ben Spencer, which set the tone Tuesday.

“Austin has come on strong lately. It’s real nice to see,” Rutt said.

The win was huge for the Eagles (9-4 Section Three, 9-4 overall), who kept on the heels of idle Donegal (9-3, 9-3) and Octorara in the battle for second place in Section Three. Manheim Central (11-1) sits alone in first place, but the other three are well within striking distance heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

That Cocalico is in a race at all is a tribute to the work put in by a team that starts just two seniors (catcher Seamus Finnegan and second baseman Kyle Rhoads), as well as Bertolino and his staff.

“I think Coach Bertolino has done a great job just getting them ready for this mentally at this point,” Rutt said. “We are a family, we are calm and we are ready to play. We are going to be tough down the stretch, but as everyone knows, Section Three still goes through Manheim Central.”

After Current cruised through the first three frames, the Eagles tacked another run on to make it 4-0 in the fourth as Finnegan drew a two-out walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Colby Zimmerman’s line single to left.

But Current faced his first trouble of the game in the home half of the fourth as Ivan Ruble and Nolan Fletcher hit back-to-back singles to start the frame. After Joe Royle walked to load the bases with nobody out, Current, just a sophomore, limited the damage to just one run as he got a big strikeout before Wyatt Weaver grounded out to first (knocking in Ruble), and Spencer flew to right to end the threat.

“Tristen did a nice job today,” Rutt said, and that’s one of the things we focus on. We try to eliminate the big innings and win the big inning battle. So the fact that they got a few guys on, we just tried to limit the damage.”

The Eagles made it 5-1 in the top of the fifth when Tyrus Current walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, went to third on a passed ball and scored on another wild pitch from Spencer.

Martin, who made his seventh appearance on the mound this season, allowed just a hit by Royle in two quick innings of work to clinch the Eagles’ fifth-straight win.

“Good location, hitting spots, mixing their pitches…that’s been the key to our success pitching-wise,” Rutt said. “They’ve been phenomenal, and these are kids that are young but know how to play baseball.”

Garden Spot fell to 7-6 in section play (7-7 overall).

In addition to Tuesday, Cocalico also was in action last Thursday at Lancaster Mennonite where Rhoads tossed six-plus innings of shutout ball as the Eagles blanked the Blazers, 5-0 in Section Three-Four crossover play.

Rhoads struck out six and walked just one while scattering six hits to earn the win on the mound.

Offensively, Cocalico took a 2-0 lead into the sixth where they tacked on one run in that inning and two more in the seventh.

The Eagles had just four hits offensively with Tristen Current going 2-for-4 with a double to lead the way.

Cocalico added a 3-1 victory over Annville-Cleona last Wednesday as Tristen Current struck out four and allowed four hits en route to the win on the mound.

Offensively, Ruzika-Porter homered to pace the eight-hit Eagle attack.

Up next, the Eagles have a huge one this Friday at home vs. Octorara, which beat Cocalico 4-2 in the first match-up of the season back on March 28. The Eagles will also host first-place Manheim Central next Wednesday.




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