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Collegiate baseball: eighth-inning rally lifts Rams

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WATERTOWN — The Watertown Rams proved that patience is a virtue in rallying for a victory over East Division-leading Mohawk Valley on Saturday night.

The Rams pushed across five runs in the decisive eighth inning on only one hit and five walks, then went on to hold off the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs, 8-5 in a Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League clash at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Central Florida catcher Matt Diorio delivered a two-run single in the inning to put the Rams ahead for good.

“A lot of guys stepped up,” Diorio said. “(Starting pitcher) Zander (Clouse) gave us six-plus innings, which is what we needed. We got guys on base when we needed to and got the clutch hits when we needed them. We showed a lot of heart tonight to grind one out.”

These grueling, marathon-like games — with the latest finishing in 3 hours and 16 minutes — aren’t a favorite of Rams coach Paul Alteri — but he’ll take the result.

“It seems like that’s the personality of this team,” Alteri said. “They’re killing me with these late-inning heroics. ... When the game gets late and is tight, our guys seem to head up there with a purpose and it’s fun to watch, I tell you.”

With Watertown trailing 5-3 in the seventh inning, the deficit was kept at two runs on a sharp defensive play. With two out, Mohawk Valley’s Jayson Sullivan singled, but a potential sixth run was erased at the plate as center fielder Joe Ogren of Bucknell threw a strike to the plate to Diorio, who tagged out Colin Hawk to end the threat.

“That’s a big momentum changer right there,” Alteri said. “Fortunately, Joe charged that ball early and got rid of it early — it wasn’t a real long throw for him — but it was right on.”

“That was huge,” Diorio said of Ogren’s strike. “He made a great throw right to me and he gave me a chance to catch the ball and get the guy. It was an awesome play by him.”

In the eighth, pinch hitter Josh Hassell, Drew Hercik and Tyler Decker each walked to load the bases and Hassell scored when shortstop Bobby Alessandrine lined out to center field.

After Santino Alteri walked to again load the bases, Chris Gaetano of Monmouth drew a walk and Herick scored to tie the game 5-5.

“A couple innings before we were starting to put some good at bats together,” said Gaetano, who also tripled in a run in the fifth inning. “We knew we had to be real disciplined at the plate, just work the counts and get ahead and just force some balls. It was really good, because everybody stepped up by getting on base.”

“We do that on purpose, we’ve got our own signals as far as taking pitches and our guys are buying into that,” Alteri said.

Diorio followed by lining a single down the left field line to drive in pinch runner Charles Leblanc and Santino Alteri for a 7-5 Watertown advantage.

“We’re just trying to take pitches and make pitchers work,” Diorio said.

Gaetano scored the eighth run as he sped home on a wild pitch by reliever Anthony Pastrana.

“We ask our starting pitchers to just keep us in the game,” Paul Alteri said. “And we didn’t start out too well, but we battled and got a run here and there. All we want to do is to get to the other team’s bullpen and we seem to do well when we do that. That’s when we get disciplined at the plate, we’re not swinging at bad pitches and we take walks.”

Jake Sale (3-0) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to earn the win for Watertown in relief. After walking a batter in the ninth, Jon Escobar struck out the side in the ninth to notch the save.

“Jonny is legit,” Alteri said of Escobar, who recorded his fourth save of the season. “We’re very confident when he’s in the game.”

By winning for the sixth time in their past eight games, the Rams (12-9) remained one-half game behind West Division-leading Elmira.

“It’s a big win, because they’re a good team and they’re first in their division,” Gaetano said. “And we’re starting to play the way we should be playing and we’re getting some wins.”

Mohawk Valley (14-6) led 1-0 on an RBI single from Gus Craig in the first inning and built a 4-0 lead with three runs in the fourth as Tyler Lau tripled in a run, and Greg Fazio and Andy Lalonde followed with RBI singles.

The Rams scored twice in the fifth inning as Gaetano tripled in Alessandrine and scored on Diorio’s ground out to short to pull within 4-2.

Watertown gave a run back in the sixth as Fazio singled and advanced to second on a throwing error, stole third base and scored on a wild pitch by Clouse.

Herick pulled the Rams to within 5-3 as he walked with two outs in the sixth and scored on Alessandrine’s single to center field.

Watertown plays at Elmira at 5:05 p.m. today. After an off day on Monday, the Rams will host Adirondack at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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