RANDOLPH - It's amazing how quickly things can change on the baseball diamond.
Over the first five innings of their Division 2 contest on Friday afternoon, Cassadaga Valley pitcher Matt Hallowell and Randolph hurler Mitch Maycock were locked in a pitcher's duel, matching one another inning-for-inning and together surrendering just three runs on five hits with six strikeouts.
The playing time for those first five frames? A mere 50 minutes.
Randolph third baseman Andrew Hvizdzak dives to make a late tag as Cassadaga Valley’s Matt Heath slides safely into the bag during Friday’s Division 2 baseball game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
Suddenly, however, the contest made an abrupt about-face; so much so that the final two innings alone took more than an hour and 15 minutes to complete.
Taking advantage of the Randolph's suddenly shaky defense, which led to difficulties for the squad over the last two innings in securing that most important of outs - the third - Cassadaga Valley plated four runs in the fifth inning with two outs to turn what had been a tight, 2-1 ballgame into a runaway victory, 11-3.
Hallowell, who earned the complete-game win after allowing three runs on five hits (only Nate Beaver recorded at least two hits for the Cardinals) with four strikeouts, led the way at the plate as well, connecting on a pair of hits (a double and a home run) with three RBIs. Teammate Matt Heath added three runs scored to go with his two hits and two RBIs and Kenny Oakes drilled two base hits and scored twice in the victory.
Randolph (5-6, 3-5) committed four errors over the final two innings, and of the nine runs the Cougars scored over that span, five came with two outs.
"That's very good," Cassadaga Valley coach Joe Mistretta said. "You love to see that because that's what breaks games open. It's what breaks the other team's heart. You get those two-out base hits and those two-out runs, and it really brings (your opponent) down."
That seemed to be the case in this one.
Cassadaga Valley broke open the one-run game (Hallowell had belted a two-run home run in the second inning to account for Maycock's lone blemish to that point) when Dakota Morano legged out an infield single and Oakes walked to open the fifth. Heath followed and appeared to have hit the inning-ending grounder to short, but the throw to first sailed high, allowing Morano to score and increase the Cougars' lead to 3-1.
Tyson Gugino was next and he also reached on an error, which was enough for Oakes to come around to score and then Hallowell, who would not have hit had it not been for the miscues, ripped a double to left, increasing the lead to what would be an insurmountable five runs, 6-1.
"That hurt," Randolph coach Nate Armella said of the Cougars' two-out rally. "We just couldn't help our pitcher. We got two outs and needed one more but we booted the ball a few times and they scored (four runs)."
Maycock took the loss, allowing nine hits over seven innings while fanning four and walking two.
Randolph showed some fight in the bottom-half of the inning by scoring a pair of runs to cut the deficit to 6-3, but by then the damage, as described by Mistretta, was already done.
Hallowell, who at one point retired 10 straight Randolph batters, sent down the Cardinals' hitters in order to close out the game.
"He was keeping the ball down, getting a lot of groundouts and swings and misses with his curve," Mistretta said of his pitcher.
Cassadaga Valley, meanwhile, with the help of two more inning-extending errors, scored another five runs in the seventh to clinch the victory, its sixth in eight league games.
"Our kids did a good job," Mistretta continued. "They hit the ball hard and were really concentrating with two outs. They've definitely been doing much better (at the plate) lately."