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Collegiate baseball: D’Spain delivers needed win as Rams split

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WATERTOWN — Dalton D’Spain seemingly gains more and more confidence each time he takes the mound for the Watertown Rams, and he’s delivering results.

D’Spain of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi hurled his second consecutive complete-game win, and Willi Martin and Jason Scholl hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning to propel Watertown to an 8-2 victory over Elmira on Friday night to salvage a split of a Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League doubleheader at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

A right-hander, D’Spain scattered six hits to win his second straight start in a week — both against the Pioneers — giving his team a boost after Elmira defeated Watertown in the first game, 7-3.

“I felt good,” said D’Spain, who fired a complete-game one-hit shutout in a 13-0 victory at Elmira last Friday. “I’m not trying to do too much with it and just letting the defense work out there behind me.”

D’Spain battled against the Pioneers in this encounter, as he walked three, but struck out six to improve to 2-1 on the summer season for Watertown (11-9).

“His effort was extra special tonight, because we needed the split,” Watertown coach Paul Alteri said. “We had to fight to get that win in the back end of the doubleheader. So he had some pressure on him on top of just getting the start, and he loves it.”

During one stretch, the San Antonio native retired nine Pioneers in a row before he was touched for a pair of runs in the fourth inning on Taylor Hillson’s two-run single, which provided Elmira with a 2-1 advantage.

“He’s been great, all year we’ve had a really good connection,” said Scholl, a catcher from Eastern Illinois who has caught D’Spain’s last three starts. “I know his pitches pretty well and what he’s been able to do, and he’s doing a great job with it. He’s dominant with his fastball and any time you can throw your fastball for strikes, it makes you all the more effective.”

The Rams plated two runs in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead for good as Ben Wylly and Josh Hassell each walked, with Wylly scoring on a wild pitch and Hassell on Charles LeBlanc’s sacrifice fly for a 3-2 lead.

Martin, of Mount Olive, opened the power surge for the Rams by sending a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall in the fifth.

“That was huge for us, it gave us momentum and confidence for the rest of the game,” Martin said of the Rams’ power outburst. “It kind of took some weight off our shoulders.”

After working the count to 3-2, Scholl followed with his blast to right field for his first home run of the season and the Rams led 5-2.

“We showed a lot of character coming back and winning the second game,” Scholl said.

Wylly followed with a walk, and after Hassell was hit by a pitch, both were driven in on Watertown native Dustin Exford’s double down the left field line.

The Rams led 8-2 after Exford scored when Charles Leblanc reached on an infield single.

“We needed it just for our own confidence, we were shaken up pretty good that first game,” Alteri said. “We needed it to wake us up, too, we’ve been awfully quiet with the bats. It’s amazing — Willi started it with that shot and it spread in the dugout, it changed everybody’s attitude and we went to the plate with better approaches. That was a big inning for us mentally and obviously for the win.”

D’Spain worked out of a jam in each of the final two innings, striking out Derek Deler to end the sixth and after Jordan Taylor doubled to lead off the seventh and John Armbrust walked, D’Spain retired the final three batters to again finish off Elmira (11-8).

“They worked well out there tonight,” D’Spain said of the Rams’ fielders, “and they hit the ball really well tonight. It was a good team win.”

Alteri added: “He’s got their number and he’s a pitcher. But he’s also a bulldog — he’s a got the attitude, he’s got the confidence and I love watching him pitch.”

Hassell, the only player to start both games for Watertown, doubled and scored a run in the opener, then reached base on all four trips to the plate in the second game, including a single and three walks, and scored twice.

In the first game, first baseman Christian Santiseban went 3-for-3 and drove in five runs, including a two-run single in the fourth inning and a two-run double in the sixth, to pace Elmira to victory.

Logan Salow and Matt Horton combined on a three-hitter for the Pioneers, with Horton retiring all six batters he faced in the final two innings to secure the win.

Rams starter Javi Villanueuva took the loss as he yielded four runs, with only one of them earned, and walked six as Watertown committed three errors in the game.

Joe Deluca stroked a two-run double in the first inning for the Rams,

NOTES: With the split, the Rams sit half a game back of both first-place Newark (11-8) and Elmira in the West Division. ... Watertown will host Mohawk Valley at 7 tonight with pitcher Zander Clouse getting the start. The Rams play at Elmira at 5:05 p.m. on Sunday.

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