BY RYAN COBB Sports writer
TALKING IT OVER — RFA coach Mike Davis, 26, talks with his team on the mound during a timeout in the fifth inning of a Central New York Counties League game against Syracuse West on Monday at DeLutis Field. The Black Knights gave up two runs in the inning en route to a 4-0 loss. (Sentinel photo by Ryan Cobb)
The Rome Free Academy baseball team collected a hit in every inning during their Central New York Counties League matchup, but the Black Knights couldn’t put them together when a scoring opportunity arose during a 4-0 loss to Syracuse West on Monday at DeLutis Field.
Senior Steven Eychner had a solid afternoon on the mound after going the distance for the complete-game effort, but it was Syracuse’s Ryan O’Neill who got the victory as he allowed eight hits and struck out eight.
O’Neill mixed his pitches real well against the Black Knights and kept them guessing throughout with his fierce curveball. His coach, Bob Southworth, would even go as far as saying he is one of the best hurlers in the CNYCL right now. The only problem has been his offense not being able to score runs for him or the rest of the team’s pitchers, resulting in a league record of 2-8 and an overall mark of 6-11.
"I think he’s the best pitcher in the league, really," said Southworth. "He pitches very well every game, but we never score any runs. Nothing bothers him. He’s very calm, cool and collected and he’s only a junior."
Before the weekend, Syracuse West scored only two runs in their last three games and tallied an average of 2.33 runs a game this season, until the bats finally came to life on Friday in their 15-1 win against Fulton and carried over into Monday with four runs scored in the final three innings.
Two runs came in the fifth when Hector Santa started it off with a lead-off liner down the right field line, then went on to steal second base and reached third safely as shortstop Joey Izzo tried to throw him out after a grounder by Collin Bassett. On the next pitch, Liam Kiest hit a ground ball up the middle of the diamond to score Santa as the go-ahead run and afterwards Eychner gave up back-to-back hits with the second being an RBI single by Matt Thompson to score Bassett for a 2-0 lead.
Syracuse would tack on one run apiece the rest of the way with Bassett getting an RBI single in the sixth for the third run, and Brian Nolan brought in the final one in the seventh frame on a double play with the bases loaded and nobody out.
While Syracuse was getting the big hits, 8-9 overall RFA was leaving their runners stranded. But none bigger than in the bottom of the fifth inning when they were down 2-0 with guys on third and second. Though with two outs, the opportunities to cash in came few as the Black Knights’ next batter Robbie Waller grounded to first to end the inning scoreless.
"We had our opportunity with two people on and got a batter up there and he swung at a bad pitch and that was our chance to tie the game," he said. "We’re not getting the hits when we have to. We had eight hits but didn’t put them together and that’s the key."
He added that O’Neill’s use of his pitches and his curve certainly kept the Black Knights off-balanced.
"He had no pattern on him. He’d throw a curve, and throw a strike to lead off," he said. "We’ve seen better pitchers but not a better curve. He wasn’t overpowering with his fastball but had great command on his curve, threw strikes, got ahead and threw it on the ground a little.
He’s one of the good ones in the league," he added.
Josh Mazzaferro collected two hits at the dish, while Waller, Jeff Cooke and Garrett Reilley each had a single apiece.
Eychner had a single, a double and a stolen base as he took the losing decision after giving up eight hits, four walks and six strikeouts. He allowed only one hit through four innings before hitting the fifth inning wall with some fatigue.
"He got a little tired," said Davis. "He wasn’t at his top, but I thought he was good enough to win," said Davis. "He had to gut it out for us since we’re real limited. I probably would’ve took him out in the sixth if I had someone fresh but we used three kids on Saturday. I got three games coming up and got to keep my starters."
The Black Knights’ league record falls to 4-5.
Today’s scheduled Senior Game against Oswego at DeLutis Field was rained out.