E-M can’t recover from tough first inning

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

WILCOX – Three first-inning errors leading to three unearned Crosby runs were too much for the Elk-McKean All-Stars (E-M) to recover from in their 5-0 loss to the Mud Hens Wednesday night at the Jones Township Recreation Park. It was the first time the all-stars from Ridgway, Johnsonburg, Wilcox, and Kane have been shut out this season.
“We didn’t show up plain and simple. The kids know it, we know it, and the crowd knows it. We just didn’t show up,” said E-M manager Casey Zimmerman following the contest.

Over two hundred fans were in attendance at the exhibition game - a fourth of the summer between the two teams. Crosby won the first two in Smethport 4-1 and 5-4 and Elk-McKean won a 2-1, 10-inning walk-off thriller back on July 10 in Wilcox.

There was extra excitement in the air as Gabe Watts who will be entering his senior year at Johnsonburg joined the team for the night. Watts who stars in football for the Elkers and basketball and baseball for the Rams pitched in an actual game for the first time this season. Last week he made a verbal commitment to play hardball at St. Bonaventure University upon graduation. Watts started and pitched three innings.

Two walks and three errors led to the three un-earned first inning Hens’ runs scored by Caleb Nuzzo, Andrew Sheeler, and Howie Stuckey. Watts struck out three and walked four but did not give up a hit in his three innings of work.

Elk-McKean looked poised to rebound from the shaky top of the first but a great play by the shortstop Stuckey, a Port Allegany graduate who will also be attending St. Bonaventure, helped squash a potential big inning. Aiden Zimmerman opened the at-bat with a base hit. Camron Marciniak followed with a ground ball to Stuckey who stepped on second and made a strong throw to Alex Ognen at first to complete the double play. Harley Morris and Ethan Wells followed with base hits but pitcher Andrew Sheeler got Domenic Allegretto to pop out to Stuckey to end the inning.

After a Watts strikeout to open the top of the second two walks and an error loaded the bases for Sheeler who struck out. The catcher Wells whirled around and honed in on a foul ball off the bat of Stuckey to end the inning. Reese Novosel walked but was left on base in the bottom of the inning.

The home team looked poised to make noise in the bottom of the third after Watts mowed the Hens down one-two-three in the top of the inning. Kam Rounsville made a terrific catch in right off the bat of Luke Zimmerman. Brother Aiden reached on a rare error by Stuckey. With two outs Morris hit safely but the inning ended on a groundball by Wells.

Carson Whiteman took over for Watts in the top of the fourth. He dominated the first six Crosby hitters he faced recording three strikeouts, two groundouts, and a flyout. Sheeler retired E-M in order in the bottom of the fourth.

Rounsville took over on the mound for the Hens in the bottom of the fifth. With one out Jefferson Freeburg reached on a base hit. After a second strikeout Rounsville hit Aiden Zimmerman setting up runners on first and second. With Marciniak at the plate, another defensive gem ended the inning. Ognen fielded a ball hit up the first baseline and threw to a hustling Rounsville to get the speedy E-M runner.

Crosby scored the fourth run in the top of the sixth. After a ground out and Whiteman strikeout, Brandon Higley hit a double and scored on a base hit by Ognen. The inning ended with no further damage. Elk-McKean was taken down in order by Sheerer in the bottom of the inning.

Bobby Rumcik scored the fifth Crosby run in the top of the seventh after opening the frame with a walk. After Whiteman recorded his fifth strikeout Jake Alcorn drew a walk. Nuzzo grounded to Aiden Zimmerman at short who stepped on the bag to get Alcorn but the throw to first was off allowing Rumcik to score. After a third walk, Stuckey flew out to Marciniak to end the inning.
The 2019 District 9 Player of the Year Stuckey walked Whiteman to open the bottom of the seventh but struck out the next three to end the game.
“It was a good game but they gave up some runs early and couldn’t recover from it. It’s very uncharacteristic of them. It seems like that has bitten them the last couple times they played us.” said Crosby manager Brandon Ruffner.

Zimmerman concurred with the Mud Hens manager. “It’s a reoccurring problem. We had a pretty in-depth conversation after the game. The kids have to do a little soul searching right now,” he said. E-M will return to action next Monday and Tuesday at the 17/18-under Callahan Auto Parts Classic being held in Sandusky, Ohio.

Morris had two hits for E-M, Aiden Zimmerman had a hit and was beaned, Wells and Freeburg also hit safely, and, Novosel and Whiteman drew walks. Higley’s double and Ognen’s single in the sixth were Crosby’s only hits.

Whiteman finished with five strikeouts, walked three, gave up two hits, and one of the two runs given up were earned. Collin Porter, Kaden Dennis, and Caden Smiley also saw action.

Elk-McKean will head to Sandusky on Sunday and begin to play Monday. Between now and then Zimmerman knows there’s work to be done. “There are things that we know we need to work on after this, but we find that we need to work on things even after a win.”