Jammers Take Series Opener
Valentine, Griggs Show Way In 9-3 Victory
Entering his at-bat in the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday night, Jamestown Jammers center fielder Skyler Valentine was 0 for 8 in the first two games of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League playoffs, and he hadn’t had an extra-base hit since July 19.
Valentine was in dire need of a big hit and so were the Jammers.
The recent Texas State transfer came through, jump-starting Jamestown to a 9-3 win over the Elmira Pioneers in the first game of the West Division Championship Series.
“It’s been pretty sweet. It’s a long summer, but at the end everybody wants to win a championship,” Valentine said after the victory. “We’re three wins away and it’s time to go get it.”
Valentine banged a triple off the left-center field wall and scored one batter later on an RBI groundout by Alex O’Donnell (Mercyhurst University) to give the Jammers a 4-3 lead. One inning later, top-seeded Jamestown broke the game open with five runs on five walks, an error and a single to make a winner of Bradley Griggs (University of Texas-San Antonio).
“With this team, you can rely on anyone to get the job done,” Valentine said. ” … Being able to pass the baton to the next person, whether you don’t get it done or someone else does … that’s a good sign with this team.”
Griggs was very effective, limiting the Pioneers to single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings before exiting after the sixth. The left-hander allowed six hits and two earned runs while walking just one and striking out five.
“Brad has been such a big part of what we’ve done the last couple of years. I’m really proud of him and the year he’s had,” Jamestown manager Anthony Barone said. “For Brad to come out in a playoff game against a talented team like Elmira, do what he did and get the win, it says a lot about the young man that he is and how hard he’s worked.”
John Conti (Canisius College) continued his late-season surge for the Jammers, going 3 for 4 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored while stealing his third base in the past two days.
“He’s on fire right now. He’s just such a grinder. It couldn’t happen to a better kid,” Barone said. “He puts so much time and effort into his craft. For him to have it pay off with such great success this summer, hopefully it gets his confidence ready for ball at Canisius.”
Jamestown looked poised to chase Elmira starting pitch Grant Donahue early, scoring three runs in the first two innings. Christ Conley (Canisius) led off the game with a double and scored one batter later on Conti’s first double of the game. The speedy Conti alertly tagged up on a Ben Brookover (UTSA) fly out to center field before scoring on a Valentine groundout to make it 2-0.
The Pioneers tallied in the top of the second inning on a sacrifice fly by No. 9 hitter Colton Evans, but the Jammers got the run right back in the bottom half of the frame. Chris Estrada (UTSA) led off the inning with a walk and Jimmy Standohar (Mercyhurst) followed that with a walk of his own. Estrada was running on the final pitch of Standohar’s at-bat and Elmira catcher Cody Thompson threw the ball into center field despite the walk, allowing Estrada to reach third. He scored two batters later on a groundout by Nick Bernick (Niagara University).
The Pioneers got a run back in the fourth inning on Brayden Combs’ solo home run before tying the game in the fifth on Ayrton Schafer’s RBI single.
After taking the lead for good on Valentine’s triple and O’Donnell’s groundout in the sixth, Jamestown took advantage of some shoddy relief pitching in the seventh. Josh Smith walked the first three batters he faced to load the bases before Jackson Tedder relieved and walked the first batter he faced. After a strikeout, Valentine reached when his grounder got under the glove of the Pioneers’ second baseman, allowing two more Jammers to score.
“That’s our style of baseball. When we can do those things, work counts and walk … steal bases, we’re a very difficult team to control for nine innings,” Barone said. ” … If we win games, that’s how it’s going to be.”
Tedder then walked another batter before Estrada hit a two-run single off the glove of Elmira’s left fielder to make it 9-3.
The Jammers’ outfield defense shined all night long, turning in 10 putouts, including a nice running catch with the bases loaded by Standohar in left field to end the game.
“With this outfield right now, it’s pretty solid,” Valentine said. “You can tell our speed is out there and we can track down pretty much everything.”
“They are very fast. They have a lot of range. It’s tough to find three quicker guys in the outfield than Conti, Valentine and Standohar,” Barone added. ” … Even that last ball, if that drops we’re only up maybe a couple of runs.”
The series now shifts to Dunn Field in Elmira for Game 2 tonight at 7:05. Michael Ginther (Canisius) will take the mound for the Jammers, hoping to clinch a spot in the PGCBL Championship Series. If the Pioneers win tonight, a deciding Game 3 will be Friday at 7:05 p.m. back at Diethrick Park.
“He’s going to give us a chance to win. He’s going to throw strikes and compete,” Barone said. ” … He’s been around. I wouldn’t want another guy with the ball other than him.”
NOTES: Troy Dixon and Evans each had two hits for Elmira with one of Evans’ going for a triple. … Jamestown’s Ryan Boyer (University of Pitt-Bradford) threw two innings of scoreless relief before running into trouble and turning the game over to Colin Johnston (Monroe Community College) in the ninth. … No. 3 Mohawk Valley won Game 1 of the East Division Championship Series, 4-3, over No. 1 Amsterdam.