The Rome Free Academy baseball squad ran into a hot pitcher on another chilly and gusty day on Monday at DeLutis Field.
Baldwinsville junior pitcher Dennis Merryweather scattered six hits, issued one walk and struck out eight batters while he also collected two doubles with a game-high four RBIs as the Bees stung the Black Knights in their second game of the season, 8-1.
On a day when the game-time temperature was around 50 degrees with whipping winds reaching almost 25 miles per hour, Merryweather was the only perfect storm against the Black Knights. He not only limited Rome’s offense, which had clubbed out eight runs against Auburn in their season opener, but he also provided the offensive spark for the team with his four RBIs, while junior Gabe Levanti delivered the big blow with a bases clearing triple in the third inning to put the Bees up, 5-0.
Merryweather forced the Romans into eight ground outs and only allowed one extra base hit — a double by Jeff Cooke — on his way to striking out eight batters and giving up one run.
Dylan Thomas had two of Rome’s six hits. He scored in the fifth inning off an RBI single up the middle and into centerfield off the bat of Garrett Reilley.
"He was throwing some heat and we weren’t used to it. Seeing a lefty for the first time threw us off too, but we’ll work at it, and get back at it," Thomas said about the tough southpaw Merryweather after RFA dropped to 1-1 on the season.
"We just couldn’t pull it out here today. We’ll take the positives out of the game and continue to move forward. We just have to work harder in practice," added Thomas.
Rome’s offense hit into the defense numerous times as Merryweather worked out of several jams throughout the game.
Thomas led off the third with a single and then advanced to second on the wild pitch, before Merryweather then struck out the side to get out of the inning.
Then, the Black Knights had runners on the corners with one out in the fifth and Steven Eychner ripped a hot shot back at third baseman Connor Martin, who made a full extension diving catch. Reilley singled in Thomas on the next play to plate Rome’s first run, but then Merryweather got the final out on a fielder’s choice ground out.
Baldwinsville head coach Dave Penafeather said it was Merryweather’s discipline on the mound and his trust in his defense behind him that won the game for the Bees on their season opener.
"His composure was the biggest thing for him. He didn’t have his best stuff today, especially early on, but I thought he just stuck with it and went after the hitters. He knew he had a tough defense behind him, and he let his teammates make the plays behind him," said Penafeather, who said Merryweather threw between 80-85 pitches.
"Its always tough to play down here in Rome. It was important for us to get off and score early and try and extend the lead as much as we could," he added.
Davis handed the ball to senior lefty starter Josh Luczak, who showed a nice fastball and some nice late-movement on his offspeed pitches, but was handcuffed in the second inning.
Luczak struck out Josh Demoski for the second out of the second before no. 9 hitter Zach Leo legged out an infield single on a tough play between Luczak and third baseman Jeff Cooke to put runners on the corners. A throwing error by the pitcher on the next play pushed a run across and then Brett Charbonneau followed that up with a walk to load the bases before Levanti took a pitch into the gap in left field and the Bees went ahead, 5-0.
Levanti reached base all four times in his at-bats and scored three runs during the win.
Luczak was saddled with the hard luck loss after he allowed five runs off eight hits with two strikeouts and no walks through 2 2/3 innings.
Davis was pleased with what he had seen from Luczak early on, and he said that it was one inning that seemed to snowball and get away from him a little bit.
"One inning he kind of hurt himself. We could have gotten out of the inning, but a few plays here and there and they got on us for three runs at that spot. He pitched well and he has nice movement, but really we gave them extra outs, and you cannot give good teams extra outs," said Davis. "It happens. Some days you have it and some days you don’t, that’s baseball."
Aaron Tennant gave the Romans some quality innings in relief as he worked the next 3 1/3 innings and garnered three runs off two hits and two walks and fanned three batters, as Ryan Reilley worked a scoreless seventh inning with one walk, no hits, and no strikeouts.
RFA was blessed with the timely hitting that found holes against Auburn during their 8-0 rout on opening day last Thursday as they went on to collect 11 hits. They were few and far between on Monday night as Baldwinsville had little troubles finding openings.
"Their timely hitting and strong pitching was the difference. That’s what went in our favor in the Auburn game against us. It’s a game of inches, and our hits found their defense today. They had extra outs and they turned them into runs. It wasn’t that we weren’t making plays, their hits found the holes and ours didn’t," Davis said.
The Bees scored seven of their eight runs with two outs.
The Black Knights are home again on Thursday at 5 p.m. against West Genesee back at DeLutis.