Jamestown manager Jordan Basile has always had confidence in Ryan Rafalski.
That confidence was rewarded Tuesday night in a big way.
The Warren native pitched 1 2/3 innings of high-leverage, scoreless relief to help Jamestown down Geneva 4-2 in a Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League game at Diethrick Park.
The win, which snapped a two-game losing streak, raised the Tarp Skunks’ record to 9-6 in the West Division, two games out of first place. The Red Wings, who defeated Jamestown 4-0 on Sunday, fell to 5-7.
“That was big,” Basile said. “We don’t have the easiest of road schedules — we have the toughest travel in the league — so we know there’s going to be games where we don’t always have our best out there, but we have to make sure if we do have a bad game that we come back the next game and take care of it. That’s what we did today … and we showed a lot of heart.”
The outcome on a hot night on the city’s east side could have easily gone the other way, but Rafalski worked himself out of a ticklish situation upon entering the game with one out in the eighth inning and the Tarp Skunks holding the two-run lead. With runners on first and second, the Red Wings’ Shane Dux hit a swinging bunt between the mound and the third-base line. Reacting quickly, Rafalski grabbed the ball with his bare hand and fired to first to just get Dux for the second out.
The right-hander from Mercyhurst University wasn’t done flashing the leather.
The next batter, Mike Groham, hit a shot up the middle that Rafalski gloved for the third out. Had he not caught the line drive it would have likely resulted in a two-run single and a tie game.
“He saved two runs, so it was huge for us,” Basile said.
In the top of the ninth, it was Rafalski’s teammates who turned a defensive gem that preserved the victory and earned the Rafalski the save. After giving up a pair of bloop singles to Luke Picchiotti and Nick Castellana to start the inning, Rafalski got Cole Fleming to bounce into a double play that went from second baseman Mark Tucker to shortstop Julian Thompson to first baseman Padraig O’Shaughnessy. Then, as the tying run at the plate, Charlie Furlong flew out to left to end the game.
“Ryan’s been doing a good job,” Basile said. “He was with us last year and we knew what he could do. He’s added a changeup to the mix this year, too, so he’s throwing three pitches and keeping guys off balance. … He’s showing some maturity, he’s got some mound time now and he holds his composure well. We’re confident when he’s out there.”
The Tarp Skunks got all the runs they would need in a three-run second off Geneva starter Jack Bohrer. With two outs, Yogi Hartigan reached on a throwing error and he scored all the way from first on Johnny Kampes’ double to center field. Kampes scored when Thompson tripled to right and then Dan Maglio drove in Thompson with an infield single.
The Red Wings trimmed the deficit to 3-1, courtesy of Gorham’s RBI double in the fourth inning off Jamestown starter Eric Crouse, but Will Dorrell’s single in the sixth pushed the Tarp Skunks’ lead to 4-1.
From there, Jamestown’s bullpen did the job.
Crouse, who worked 4 2/3 innings, had to leave the game when he was struck in the leg with a ball off the bat of Furlong. Connor DeMoss came on and worked a scoreless sixth before giving way to Kenny Misik. Misik surrendered a run in the seventh and left in the eighth with one out and runners on first and second.
That’s when Rafalski showed his mettle, making those two fine defensive plays to end the threat in the eighth and then worked out of a jam in the ninth for the save.
NOTES: Seven different players had a hit apiece for the Tarp Skunks. … Castellana, who hails from Lancaster and now attends Niagara University, had three of Geneva’s eight hits. … Jamestown will be back in action today with a doubleheader against Oneonta at Diethrick Park. The first pitch for the first game is scheduled for 5 p.m. The Tigers are 6-8 and in sixth place in the East Division.