Snyder Comes Through Late After Heil, Pope Lock Up In Duel
LAKEWOOD — Cole Snyder had seen enough of Devin Pope for one day after going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts.
When Pope reached his pitch limit one batter before Snyder’s eighth-inning at-bat Tuesday with the winning run standing on first base, it was time for the Trojans junior to turn his luck around.
Snyder hit the first pitch he saw from Chautauqua Lake reliever Nate Engdahl into the left-center field gap, just off the glove of the Thunderbirds left fielder to score Mitchell Pascarella with the winning run as Southwestern rallied for a 4-3 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 West victory at Packard Field.
“I haven’t seen Cole at the plate like that all year. Give a lot of credit to Devin Pope. He kept him off-balance,” Southwestern coach Jared Brown said. ” … For Cole to come up clutch like that was great for his confidence. I told Cole to sit fastball. If it’s there first pitch give it a ride. That’s what he did.”
Chautauqua Lake had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth inning off Snyder, who relieved starter Luke Heil. Pope reached on a one-out infield single to deep short and Kyler Majka followed with his second double of the afternoon to deep center field, scoring Pope all the way from first. Bryce Rowe followed with a walk and a double steal put runners at second and third, but Snyder struck out the final two Thunderbirds to get out of the inning.
“His bat’s been waking up lately and he got a pitch to drive. It was the right man in the right spot type of situation,” Chautauqua Lake coach Brian Bongiovanni said of Majka. ” … He usually comes through. We’ve got some good leaders on this team that are starting to relish being good leaders. … We’re lucky to have some ball players.”
Aidan Kennedy led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single to left field and Aden Froah laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to set the stage for Brian Burns. The Trojans (8-3, 7-3) leadoff hitter hit an RBI single to right field to tie the game before getting caught stealing with Pascarella at the plate. Pascarella then walked to spell the end of the day for Pope.
The Thunderbirds (3-8, 3-7) right-hander threw 7 2/3 innings of four-hit ball, striking out 11 and walking three.
“Devin threw great for us. He had command of several pitches. For him to go that deep into the ballgame for as young as we are behind him was impressive,” Bongiovanni said. “Two times we got up a run late and weren’t able to hold on. Last time we played this team they really took it to us. The fact that we turned the corner that quickly is something we’re looking forward to. We’re going to build off this.”
Southwestern was able to stay close all afternoon thanks to an outstanding start from Heil. The left-hander threw seven innings of two-hit ball, striking out 11 and walking three.
Chautauqua Lake got on the board with a run in the first inning as Pope led off by reaching on an error, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Bryce Rowe’s sacrifice fly to center field. The Thunderbirds went up 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning as Rowe led off with a walk, stole second and third, and scored on a wild pitch.
The Trojans answered in the bottom of the fourth inning as Burns walked, stole second and went to third when the throw ended up in center field, then scored on Heil’s RBI single just past the third baseman — Southwestern’s first hit off Pope.
The Trojans tied the game in the bottom of the sixth inning as Burns walked with one out, stole second and scored on Pascarella’s RBI double down the left-field line.
“This is his first game (leading off),” Brown said of Burns. “He really showed that he could be the guy that stays in that position. He can be on base for our Nos. 2 and 3 hitters to hit him in.”
The bottom half of the order — featuring several younger players on both sides — struggled for both teams.
Chautauqua Lake’s 4-9 hitters were 0 for 18 with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
“(Monday) we had the whole bottom half of our order getting on base,” Bongiovanni said. ” … It’s a product of being young. They are learning. You have to change your approach. Heil had a good curveball and they have to learn to shorten up and just put the ball in play.”
Southwestern’s 5-9 hitters were 1 for 14 with a single and a sacrifice bunt.
“We’ll take a look at this and make adjustments,” Brown said. “We’ve been struggling with the bottom half of our order for the entire team. I’m sure there’ll be some kind of shakeup.”
With Fredonia clinching the division title Monday, both teams have now shifted their focus to the Section VI playoffs. The Trojans will play in the Class B2 bracket while the Thunderbirds will compete in Class C.
“We played a quality ballclub really close. Now we’re focused on playoffs,” Bongiovanni said. ‘We probably aren’t going to face a team much better than Southwestern. That’s a feather in our cap. We can stay with anybody.”
“We have a real shot to compete with anyone in B2 in my opinion. We just faced one of the best pitchers we’ve seen all year,” Brown said. “I really think we can compete with any team, Medina, Akron, Roy-Hart … any of those teams up north.”