HORNELL – It was evident throughout the night that frustration had begun to settle in around the Dodgers dugout after another crushing defeat Friday night at Maple City Park against the Olean Oilers in Game 1 of doubleheader action.
In the nightcap, they found themselves in another hole. The frustration grew, especially for fourth year Dodger Colin Johnson, who was hit by a pitch in his second to last at-bat of the day.
But despite that, he made a promise to coach Justin Oney on his way back to the dugout in Game 2 — “We're going to win this game.”
He was due up again later in the bottom of the sixth, with his team trailing 4-3 count to the Oilers. Johnson delivered on his promise in a big way, as he obliterated a pitch to deep left field, sailing in the night sky before hitting the trees on the backside of the scoreboard, enough to put Hornell ahead with a three-run home run to bounce back and force the split with a 6-4 comeback win over the Oilers.
“Colin Johnson is a guy that's been working super hard every day,” Oney said. “He records all his at-bats, his BP sessions, he works as hard as possible, and he may overwork himself a little bit to the point where there isn't much left in the tank for him to go with at gametime. I'm trying to do a better job of maintaining him, but when works as hard as he does, great things happen, and tonight it happened for him.”
Before the big bounce-back to end the night, the Oilers piled up the runs in game one against Jon Ward and the Dodgers, scoring all 12 of their runs in the first three innings of play, headlined by a seven-run, floodgate-opening second inning. In all, Olean scored 12 runs on 13 total hits to pair with their error-free game of defense.
The Dodgers scored their lone run in the top of the fourth inning with help from Brody Burdett, who laced a 1-2 pitch down the right field line to score Tucker Holden on his two-out double. It was one of his team-leading three hits that paced the Hornell offense. Andrew Littlefield added two hits of his own, while Johnson and Jack Henby had a hit each.
In Game 2, Olean (14-16-3) picked up where it left off. The Oilers earned the game's first strike with a three-run, three hit inning, triggered by a two-run single by Adam Moore, who plated Dylan Vincent and Mason Nadolney on a line drive into center.
The Dodgers (13-16-2) responded with a pair of runs, starting with a four-pitch walk to Matt Martinez. After an infield hit by Kevin Higgins put two runners in scoring position, both would come in on a wild pitch and RBI single from Littlefield to cut the lead to one after the opening frame.
Even though it was a rough go of it in the early-going for Gaetan Sinisgalli, he still managed to hold Olean in check, allowing just one more run through the next six innings on three strikeouts and three walks before he was pulled late in the seventh inning.
“It was really scary at first for G, but honestly he threw too many strikes to start the game,” Oney said. “He's not that kind of pitcher, he's a pitcher where he has to rely on his movement, and the corners. The guys allowed him to keep doing what he's been doing all night. He competed his butt off, and he's another guy that works as hard as possible.”
But Olean was able to extend their lead back out to two in the top of the fifth with assistance from Kevin Mooney, who received all barrel on his two-out zinger into deep center field, plating Nadolney on his single.
The Hornell deficit was back down to one again in the bottom half. Holden worked his way to first with a gorgeous bunt to the right side of the infield to reach. He made his way around to third, where he eventually came home on Jack Henby's bloop single that was dropped into shallow right field to make it 4-3 going into the last two innings of play.
The momentum remained in their favor after a quick 1-2-3 of the Olean bats in the top of the sixth, allowing Colin Johnson to give the Dodgers their first lead of the day on a massive three-run go-ahead blast to deep left field for his team-leading third home run of the season, and a 6-4 lead heading into the seventh.
The rest was on the shoulders of Sinisgalli and the defense. The Oilers were able to put a pair of base-runners on with one out. Then, a big game-saving play as Holden showed off the wheels in left field, making an over-the-shoulder catch before doing a somersault on his way to the ground to rob Mooney of what could have been two game-tying RBIs.
“Tucker Holden is a guy I was really close with when I was at Oklahoma Wesleyan,” Oney said. “He was a freshman, I was a grad assistant, and we've had a great friendship since the beginning. He's a guy I'm super proud of seeing how much he's grown over the course of time. He's come a long way, and I'm so proud of everything he does.”
After the out, Sinisgalli was pulled in favor of Spencer Weyand, who went on to pick up the save for the Dodgers with a game-ending strikeout to Noah Weiner, completing the bounce-back victory for the hosts.
The Dodgers will return to action today with their final twinbill of the week at Maple City Park, this time hosting the Eastern Division leading Cortland Crush. First pitch for game one is set for 3 p.m.
Weyand and Austin Warfel will get the calls for Oney and the Dodgers on the mound.
“Going up against Cortland, they're a team that plays the game of baseball the right way,” said Oney. “They play hard, and we'll have some arms available to battle that. We'll be ready to go out to compete. They'll have the long bus ride here, and we have the home field advantage for what feels like the next 800 days. We do have that luxury, so hopefully we can carry the second game momentum into Sunday.”
Game 1 Hornell 000 100 0 – 1 7 3 Olean 273 000 X – 12 13 0
H – Jon Ward (LP) (3K, 2BB), Brody Burdett (4) (K), and Colin Johnson. O – Murphy O'Brien (WP) (5K, BB), Ian Concevitch (6), and Mike Beimel.
Game 2 Olean 300 010 0 – 4 8 0 Hornell 200 013 X – 6 7 0
O – Tyler Robison (LP) (CG, 4K, BB), and Kevin Mooney. H – Gaetan Sinisgalli (WP) (3K, 3BB), Spencer Weyand (S, 7) (K), and Nick Wimmers.