Johnstown takes advantage of errors to record 5-4 victory over Corinth

CORINTH – Down to their final out, the Johnstown baseball team found a way to survive and advance Thursday.

The sixth-seeded Sir Bills took advantage of two errors to tie the game in the top of the seventh and scored the game-winning run in the top of the ninth to post a 5-4 win over third-seeded Corinth in a Class B quarterfinal game at Corinth Elementary School.

“We never get rattled no matter what the score is,” Johnstown coach Aaron Mraz said. “We always think we have a chance and we never quit playing.”

Johnstown trailed 4-3 in the top of the seventh when Connor Rodecker lofted a fly ball to left centerfield with Adam Caputo on second base.

Corinth leftfielder Anthony Villano looked to make the catch, but with centerfielder Alex Jenkins closing in, the ball dropped, allowing Caputo to score the game-tying run and Rodecker to reach base.

“Their leftfielder had already made two game-saving, diving catches,” Mraz said. “I didn’t think that one was going to drop but it was close enough between left and center field that there was a mix up. We were able to take advantage of it.”

Johnstown loaded the bases in the eighth inning with three singles, but pinch runner Andrew Wilson was thrown out at the plate for the second out on a single by Dan Nellis, allowing Corinth to escape the jam when Villano snared a line drive by Joe Nellis for the third out.

“We did everything we needed to do, we just couldn’t score runs,” Mraz said. “We stranded a lot of runners today.”

Johnstown left 13 runners on base in the game.

The Sir Bills threatened again in the top of the ninth when Caputo drew a leadoff walk before advancing to third on a stoled base and a passed ball. With one out, Jon Heroth attempted a suicide squeeze but didn’t get the bunt down and Caputo was tagged out for the second out.

“I thought we had [the suicide squeeze] set up right,” Mraz said. “We didn’t execute it though.”

Heroth quickly redeemed himself, singling to left field on the next pitch before scoring on a two-out single to right field by Josh Brown, who celebrated his birthday with a game-winning RBI.

Joe Nellis sealed the win for the Sir Bills, putting the Tomahawks down in order for the fourth straight inning. Nellis struck out eight, walked none and retired all 12 batters his faced in four innings of relief.

“Joe [Nellis] came in and shut them down,” Mraz said. “He pitched well today.”

For the most of the first six innings, Corinth held the lead after scoring three times in the bottom of the first.

“Corinth is a very good team,” Mraz said. “They’re fundamentally sound.”

Johnstown scored the game’s first run when Richie Lee led off the game with a single to left field before scoring when Matt Szurek reached on an error.

Down 1-0, the Tomahawks answered with three runs in the bottom of the first on two walks, an error and two singles. Greg Kelley had an RBI single for Corinth in the first.

The Sir Bills got one run back in the top of the second when Heroth scored on a one-out groundout by Mike Everest to make it 3-2.

Johnstown pulled even in the top of the fourth when Heroth scored on a groundout by Brown to make the score 3-3.

Corinth regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth, when Villano scored on a single by Zack Shippee as the Tomahawks took a 4-3 lead.

The advantage remained until the top of the seventh when the Sir Bills tied the game in improbable fashion before going on to score the winning run in the ninth.

“This was a heck of a game between two good teams,” Corinth coach Pete Sorbera said.

Johnstown, which defeated No. 11 Cohoes 11-9 on Tuesday in the first round, got a double and two singles from Heroth. Dan Nellis, Szurek and Brown all had two hits for the Sir Bills.

“We’re just a gutsy team,” Mraz said. “We did a great job battling to stay in it. We knew we could come back and we were able to do it.”

Johnstown (15-7 overall) will face the winner of today’s game between No. 7 seed Hudson and No. 2 seed Saratoga Central Catholic in Saturday’s semifinal game at Bleecker Stadium in Albany. Hudson and Saratoga Catholic were rained out Thursday.

Corinth finished the season with a record of 14-6 overall.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my team,” Sorbera said. “They battled all season long.”

Johnstown 5, Corinth 4 (9 innings)

Johnstown110 100 101 5 10 2

Corinth300 100 000 4 7 5

Rodecker, Nellis (6) and Caputo; Jenkins, Basmajian (7), Kelley (9) and Kelley, Jenkins (9).