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May 17, 2010

Grand Island clinches NFL baseball title with win at Niagara Falls

By Jonah Bronstein Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA FALLS — Chris Moody had three hits Monday, but it was his final out that clinched the Niagara Frontier League baseball championship for Grand Island.

Moody’s chopper up the middle in the eighth inning sent Tyler Hinaman home for Grand Island’s go-ahead run in a 5-3 comeback victory over Niagara Falls under the lights at Sal Maglie Stadium.

“I thought about suicide or safety squeezin’ with him,” GI coach Dean Santorio said, “but he’s been swinging the bat so well.”

“There was a lot of pressure, the game was on the line,” said Moody, who had hits in his first three at bats in the leadoff spot and scored two of the Vikings first three runs. “I just wanted to put the ball in play.”

Hinaman led off the extra inning for the Vikings (15-2, 11-1 NFL) with a base hit and moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt from Mike Sperrazza. C.J. Fadel, the No. 9 batter, then legged out an infield single that moved Hinaman to third.

“It was great to see that at the bottom of the order,” Santorio said.

Sperrazza scored an insurance run on Ben Tompkins’ liner to left and Joel Klock retired the side in the eighth to seal the win.

The much-anticipated pitching duel between Klock and Niagara Falls’ Cam Carney took a little while to develop.

Klock, who will join the Niagara University squad in the fall, allowed four hits and three runs (two earned). Adam Grace and Kyle McGovern had RBIs in the first frame for Niagara Falls (9-7 overall, 7-5).

But after that, Klock pitched seven shutout innings, giving up just four hits.

“We faced probably the best pitcher in Western New York and we battled him through seven innings,” Niagara Falls coach Joe Contento said. “Very good ballgame for us. But it happens that they got the hits when they needed them. It’s a game that helps both teams going into playoffs.”

Among the nearly 150 fans in the stands were Niagara skipper Rob McCoy and Purple Eagles pitching coach Dan Cevette.

“I really wanted to be on the mound for this one,” Klock said. “When I looked at the schedule at the beginning of the year, every (Monday) game was at home except for this one. So I said, ‘OK coach, I want the Mondays,’ so I can try and toe the rubber out there and great ready.”

Grand Island tied the game in the third after Fadel led off the inning with a triple and scored on a bloop single from Moody. Following a line drive from Tompkins that knocked Carney’s cap off, Nick Kellner singled in Moody.

“Moody was phenomenal today,” Klock said.

“Against Carney, he’s a heck of a pitcher, to come out and get 13 hits off him, we’re real happy about that,” Santorio said. “It was a great atmosphere to play under. We wanted to win the league outright tonight because they’re the team in second place.”

Grand Island, Niagara Falls and Niagara-Wheatfield shared the NFL title last season.

“It feels good,” Moody said, “to have it to ourselves.”