Outlaws win in 2019 finale, 9-8

JARED BOMBA | The Daily Star Oneonta center fielder Hite Merrifield watches his second-inning single during Wednesday’s season finale against Mohawk Valley.

Oneonta closed out the 2019 season Wednesday, July 31 with a come-from-behind, 9-8 victory over Mohawk Valley at Damaschke Field.

Trailing, 8-7, the Outlaws squeezed out a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth to retake the lead. Ben Bianco drove in Mike Casaleggio with one out, and Jared Payne notched his third RBI of the night in the next at-bat, singling in Bianco for the go-ahead run.

Josh Hudgins entered for the ninth inning, and allowed one walk that did put a runner in scoring position, but clean defense gave Oneonta a win in its final contest of the campaign. Hudgins was the seventh pitcher used by the Outlaws.

The late rally came after Mohawk Valley erased a six-run deficit of its own. Oneonta took a 1-0 lead in the first as a pair of passed balls moved John Rhodes from first to third after he reached on a single. The inning appeared over as Jared Payne hit a pop-up behind first base with two outs, but defensive miscommunication saw the ball hit the outfield grass for a RBI single.

Mohawk Valley, which is qualified for the playoffs, changed pitchers for the second, and the Outlaws took advantage with five runs against Carson Coon. A Mike Casaleggio walk brought one run across before Rhodes lined a triple into the left-center field gap that scored three. Bianco singled in Rhodes before Mike Murray took over for Coon with one out and closed the inning without further scoring.

The DiamondDawgs answered with two runs in the third on Oneonta starter Ben Wager before tying the game in the fourth with four runs on reliever Steve Centorani. The Outlaws surged ahead in the bottom of the fourth as Payne drove in Casaleggio, but single runs for Mohawk Valley in the sixth and eighth created the late deficit.

Wager finished with two runs, one of them earned, on two hits in three innings. He walked two and struck out three. Cole Fancher, Walker Sutman and Hudgins each contributed a scoreless inning in relief, with Sutman striking out two in the seventh.

Payne went 4-for-5 with three RBIs to pace the Oneonta offense and finish the season with a .390 average in 29 appearances. Rhodes was 2-for-3 and also tallied three RBIs, while Kevin Gsell had three hits.

Bianco and Hite Merrifield each had a pair of hits and a run, with Bianco also driving in a pair. Casaleggio scored three runs.

Oneonta finishes the season at 18-28, fifth out of six teams in a PGCBL East.