Blessing, Conti Lift Jammers Into Winner-Take-All Game 3 Tonight

Jamestown’s Cory Blessing delivers to the plate during Game 2 of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series at Diethrick Park on Monday night. The Ohio University right-hander worked 6.1 innings, gave up three hits and struck out four to help the Jammers to a 5-2 victory over Mohawk Valley. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

The Jamestown Jammers certainly didn’t need a miracle Monday night.

But they sure couldn’t turn down a blessing.

Cory Blessing (Ohio University) threw 6.1 innings of three-hit baseball, striking out four while not walking a batter as Jamestown beat Mohawk Valley, 5-2, in Game 2 of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series at Diethrick Park.

“I’m so proud of Cory. He didn’t know he was getting the ball until Sunday night on the way home,” Jammers manager Anthony Barone said. “What he did for us, he deserves every bit of praise.”

The victory sets up a winner-take-all Game 3 at 7:05 tonight back at the stadium on Falconer Street.

Jamestown’s John Conti reaches third base after a first-inning triple, the first of his three hits. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

The Jammers will send four-game winner Bradley Griggs (University of Texas-San Antonio) to the mound while the DiamondDawgs will counter with five-game winner Joe DeSarro.

“I couldn’t think of a better guy to give the ball to in Game 3 with a chance to win a championship series,” Barone said.

While Blessing was getting the job done on the mound, leadoff hitter John Conti was driving the offense. The soon-to-be Canisius College senior went 3 for 4 and was a home run shy of the cycle. Conti scored two runs, drove in a run and also stole a base.

“He’s been the catalyst for this whole playoff run,” Barone said. “He’s had such a tremendous season and it’s carried over to the postseason. He’s a guy that’s just become a dominant player in this league.”

After finishing sixth in the league with a .345 average during the regular season, the right fielder is now hitting a league-best .545 in five playoff games with four doubles and a triple to go along with six runs scored, six RBIs and five stolen bases.

Skyler Valentine makes contact. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

“We are joking around with him calling him ‘Mr. August,'” Jammers center fielder Skyler Valentine said of Conti. “That guy is something else right now. He’s on fire. If he can do that again we’ll have a good shot to win.”

Clay Koniencki’s two-out home run off Blessing gave Mohawk Valley a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning before the Jammers answered quickly in the bottom half of the frame. Conti led off with a triple and scored when the DiamondDawgs weren’t able to turn an inning-ending double play on Ben Brookover’s groundout to second base.

Jamestown took the lead for good with a three-run third inning and again Conti was in the middle of the action. The Niagara Falls native turned on a one-out Doug Molnar offering and dove it to right field for a standup double. With two outs, Chris Conley (Canisius) hit an RBI single ahead of a Brookover (UTSA) walk. Valentine (Texas State University) then hit a 1-0 pitch to the wall in left-center field for a two-run triple that made it 4-1 in favor of the West Division champs.

“Sometimes you just have to try new stuff out,” Valentine said. “After my first at-bat, I was hunting for a fastball. I tried something different with my feet and it worked out well.”

The Jammers plated their final run in the fourth as Jimmy Standohar (Mercyhurst University) led off with a double to chase Molnar from the game. With two outs, Conti’s RBI single made it 5-1.

Third baseman Chris Estrada throws to first for the out. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

“I was able to kind of run into a couple,” Conti said. ” … During batting practice I felt good and I was able to carry it over to the game.”

That was plenty of support for Blessing, who allowed just one hit over his next five innings before running into trouble in the top of the seventh. The DiamondDawgs’ Ben Porter led off the inning with a double and Blessing hit A.J. Pollack with a pitch.

“He had his best start of the year,” Conti said of Blessing. “What better night to have it.”

After a sacrifice bunt, Barone turned to Colin Johnston (Monroe Community College), who induced a groundout before Joe Engel’s RBI single made it 5-2. Johnston then got out of the inning with a groundout.

“They threw a guy out there that threw his heart out,” Mohawk Valley manager Blake Nation said of Blessing. “He threw a great game. … He really battled and gave his team a chance to win.”

Jamestown shortstop Alex O’Donnell, left, flips the ball to second baseman Nick Bernick for an out during Game 3 of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series at Diethrick Park on Monday night. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

The DiamondDawgs threatened again in the top of the eighth. With two outs, Russ Olive doubled and Porter walked to bring the tying run to the plate. After another mound visit from Barone, Johnston got Pollack to ground out to Chris Estrada (UTSA) at third for the final out.

“I just told him ‘Hey, they are the ones with the problem right now. They are down three runs and they have to deal with you,'” Barone said.

Now the Jammers turn to Griggs with a shot at their first league championship in just their second year of existence.

“I don’t think I’d rather have anybody else on the mound right now,” Valentine said of Griggs, who has also been a college teammate of his. “Bradley works hard and I think his determination will show off at the end of the day.”

NOTES: Tickets for tonight’s game will be $2. … Conti had three hits and Valentine had two for Jamestown while Olive had a pair of hits for Mohawk Valley. … Porter made an outstanding running catch to steal a sure extra-base hit from Alex O’Donnell (Mercyhurst) in the bottom of the second inning. … Valentine and O’Donnell pulled off a successful double steal in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Valentine was called out after his foot came off the bag after reaching safely.

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