The old baseball saying “the third out is always the hardest” was proven true once again in the Concordia Stingers’ first game of the season Sunday afternoon.
Leading the Carleton Ravens 3-1 in the final inning of the game, Stingers starting pitcher Alex Kechayan recorded the first two outs of the inning with relative ease before it all fell apart.
Kechayan would give up a two out walk and single before manager Howard Schwartz removed him from the game, replacing him with relief pitcher Pierre-Marc Lebel.
Lebel immediately gave up two singles allowing the tying runs to score.
“That was the bottom of their order,” Schwartz said. “They’d gone hitless on the day and they came up with some clutch hitting, so give them credit for that.”
After pitching masterfully for 6 2/3 innings, allowing only seven hits and striking out one batter (league games are only seven innings when playing doubleheaders), Kechayan was simply out of gas having thrown over 100 pitches. Though Kechayan would have liked to complete the game Schwartz just simply couldn’t leave Kechayan in any longer.
“(Kechayan) pitched a gem,” said Schwartz. “He did everything we possibly asked from him and more. He just had nothing left. He was running on fumes at that point, so guys just started waiting on his fastball because his curveball just wasn’t getting in the strike zone.”
Concordia would be retired in order in the bottom of the seventh, leaving the door open for Carleton to go ahead in extra innings.
Lebel would manage to get the first out of the inning before giving up a double, spelling the end of his afternoon.
Brian Hutchinson replaced Lebel, but didn’t fare much better. After a base hit put runners on second and third, Schwartz was once again faced with a tough decision to load the bases with an intentional walk, and hope for a double play ball.
With the bases loaded Hutchinson walked the next two batters he faced, giving Carleton a 5-3 lead, before pitching out of the inning.
Despite the undesirable consequences, Schwartz didn’t regret his decision to issue the intentional pass.
“It’s the play you’ve got to make,” said Schwartz. “With runners on second and third with one out you’ve got to give your infielders a chance to make a play. Unfortunately we walked the two batters and that made the difference. But you’ve got to give your fielders a chance.”
Concordia would manage to rally in the bottom of the inning, making the score 5-4, but with a runner on third base, Stingers rookie outfielder Tim Riley would strike out to end the game, leaving the tying run 90 feet away.
Carleton starting pitcher Charlie Crab completed the game giving up four earned runs, eight hits, striking out five and being credited with the win.
Concordia would leave nothing to chance in the second game, though. The Stingers exploded for a
13-run third inning against Ravens’ starting pitcher Tyler Brody en route to a 13-1 victory, that was mercy ruled after five innings.
The inning was capped off by a grand slam home run by Stingers’ first baseman Andre Lagarde.
“We had control of both games,” said Schwartz. “The only difference was that we didn’t close the door on the last out (in the first game). In the second game our offence just took over and we didn’t even give them a chance.”
Lost in the offensive explosion was the impressive pitching of Stingers’ starter Brandon Berkovits.
Berkovits pitched four, nearly perfect innings, allowing no hits and striking out six batters.
The only Raven to reach base against Berkovits was a lead-off walk in the first inning; Berkovits promptly picked off the runner with what Schwartz called “a professional pick-off move.”
Concordia will face archrival and defending national champion McGill on Sept. 6. The game is at 7:30 p.m at Trudeau Park.