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Published: May 07, 2009 11:42 pm

HS BASEBALL: NT nips GI in eight; hands Vikes second straight loss

By David J. Hill
Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — Home plate at Grand Island’s baseball diamond Thursday may as well have been decorated with a shiny bow. The Vikings uncharacteristically gift-wrapped a 6-5 Niagara Frontier League win for North Tonawanda in extra innings.

The Lumberjacks rallied from three runs down in the bottom of the fourth to tie the score at 5-5, and plated the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth on Tony Miano’s sacrifice fly to deep right field, which allowed pinch runner Tyler Kissel to tag up from third.

Kevin Miller started NT’s half of the eighth by singling to center; Kissel came in to pinch run for him. Next, Josh Kern ripped one to second baseman Korey Hagen, who mishandled the ball, allowing Kern to reach first and Kissel third, setting up Miano’s sac fly.

A fielding error allowed NT to tie it up in the top of the sixth.

“The difference was what we did in the field,” said Grand Island coach Dean Santorio. “We had four or five mistakes in the field that we can’t afford to make.”

“It’s a game that we handed to them. I give them credit, because they made a couple plays they needed to make. But you’ve got a 5-2 lead in the fourth and you’re hitting the ball all right, you can’t have four or five costly mistakes in the field,” he added.

In addition to going 2-for-3 at the plate, Miller also did his part on the mound, shutting down the GI bats in the bottom of the eighth to earn the save in relief of classmate Micah Puscheck.

NT coach Tony Ruffalo said the win was the result of all of his guys doing their part, but it was big to get solid outings in the clutch from his two senior hurlers.

“That was huge on their part. They finally stepped up and did what seniors are supposed to do,” Ruffalo said. “They came through today.”

The Vikings (6-2 NFL) had runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh and again in the eighth, but both times, held off the threat. In the seventh, GI’s Hagen hit a sharp grounder to Kern at short. Kern quickly snared the ball and scooped it over to second baseman Miano to start NT’s third double play of the day.

In the Vikings’ eighth, Chris Moody hit his third single of the day and Nick Kellner also got a hit. But later in the inning, with two guys on base and two outs, Miller struck out Marv Pawlowski, who went over on a check swing.

Thursday’s loss was GI’s second straight, after falling to Niagara-Wheatfield 7-4 on Wednesday, while the Jacks got to savor a big win after dropping their share of tight games this spring. It also caps off a big, 3-0 week for the Jacks, who started the season 1-4.

“That’s a really good team, so I couldn’t be more proud of these guys right now for battling and hanging with a good team,” Ruffalo said.

Asked if he thinks his team is starting to turn that corner, Ruffalo said: “We’re slowly turning, but I don’t want to jinx it. We’re not quite there. We’ve still got a lot of stuff to work on.”

Ben Tomkins was on the mound for GI on Thursday.


Although the Vikings don’t play today, their ace, senior Joel Klock, will be getting a visit from a Milwaukee Brewers scout, who will be taking a good look at the left-hander who recently pitched a no-hitter with 18 strikeouts.