SLIPPERY ROCK – There was no one guilty party Wednesday.
Armed with a six-run lead and needing five outs, Slippery Rock watched Hickory score six times in the sixth and seventh innings and five more in the 10th inning in a 13-8 loss in Region 2 action.
“It really was a team loss,” Rockets coach Derrick Wood said. “I can count at least seven or eight different guys offensively or defensively that had a chance to win the game for us. We had tons and tons and tons of opportunities to win the game today. We just couldn’t get somebody to step up in the moment and make a play when we needed it. That’s ultimately the story of the game.
“There’s no yelling at anyone or beating anyone up for the mistakes that were made today. Again, multiple guys had chances to make a play for us whether it was at the plate, defensively or on the mound. You just have to execute when your name’s called.”
As a group, Slippery Rock pitching struggled to find the strike zone against Hickory, handing out 14 free passes – including nine from four different relievers.
“That’s the name of the game – throw strikes,” Wood said. “It ultimately came down to the free bases and it killed us the last time we faced them, too. I think we had 10 walks the last time and I believe we had just as many today. If you can’t execute pitches, you can’t expect to be successful. Those guys did a good job of taking what we gave them and taking advantage of that.”
In the top of the seventh with runners on first and second with two away, Hickory appeared to have run out of magic when Luca Bertolasio hit a grounder to short, but a short-hopped throw gave the Hornets new life.
DJ Donatelli doubled to right field to score pinch runner Parker Hilliard and Connor Stoyer to send the game into extra innings.
After neither team did much offensively in the eighth and ninth innings, Hickory wasted little time, putting the game away by sending 10 batters to plate and scoring five runs on five hits and a pair of walks. Djakovich (two) and Joey Cidila (one) had RBIs in the inning for Hickory.
“This year has been hell on the heart, but there’s no give up in these kids,” Hickory coach Chris Manzo said. “We’ve been down before and we’ve come back, so today was nothing new to them.”
After the Rockets opened the scoring on Brett Galcik’s two-out double in the bottom of the first, the Hornets took a 2-1 in the top of the second on when Tanner Turosky scored on a delayed double steal and Bertolasio singled home Luke Ference.
Slippery Rock charged back in the bottom of the third, taking a 5-2 lead on a Sal Mineo RBI single and a three-run shot from Brett Galcik.
The Rockets tacked on three more runs in the fifth on a two-run double from Gordon – who eventually scored his club’s final run later in the inning on a wild pitch.
With Gordon on the bench to start the sixth, Slippery Rock reliever Ryan Double walked back-to-back batters before Bertolasio changed the tenor of the game with a 3-run blast over the left-field fence. One out later, Johnny Leedham followed his lead sending a rocket to nearly the same spot to pull the Hornets to within 8-6.
“Even at 8-2, I knew this was going to be a close game,” Wood said. “Every time, we play them it is. We knew we had to remained focused. We knew we would have to execute down the stretch. We couldn’t give away free bases out of relief and we couldn’t follow through.
“I hate the C-word, but complacency set in when we were up 8-2. We just got too complacent at that point. Kudos to those guys for following through on their game plan. We just have to use this as a learning experience, because as long as there’s an out left on the board, the game’s never over.”
For Slippery Rock (8-6, 11-6), Galcik went 3-for-5 with four RBIs, while Nick Kingerski and Mineo each ripped a pair of singles. Gordon scattered two runs on two hits and five walks over five innings, while striking out four.
“There can’t be anyone in Pennsylvania high school baseball swinging a better bat than Brett is right now,” Wood said. “He’s putting balls over the fence in left field, over the right fielder’s head. He’s hitting singles, he’s hitting triples ... a couple grand slams and a couple other home runs all in the past seven days.
“When he’s up to the plate, we know what we’ve got in him. He’s been unbelievable this year. Just wish we could’ve had a few more guys help him out with timely hits when we needed it. But yeah, Brett’s been light’s out at the plate and I don’t think there’s a hotter hitter in the state. If there is, I’d be surprised. It’s his senior year and he’s leaving it all on the field and it’s showing.”
NOTES: After starting at 3:55 p.m., the game finished up at 7:02, lasting 3 hours, 7 minutes. ... Entering Tuesday, Galcik has now hit home runs in four straight games. ... The Hornets had six walks. ... The Rockets had three errors to one for Hickory. ... The win clinched the Region 2 title outright for the Hornets, who have won six in nine years and 21 overall. ... Offensively, Hickory was led by Bertolasio’s 3-for-6 effort and four RBIs, Donatelli’s single, double and two RBIs and Leedham’s home run, double and RBI.
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