Field of legends

COOPERSTOWN – Dunkirk’s trip to Cooperstown ended in a loss Friday afternoon at Doubleday Field, as the Marauders (0-2) fell to the Cairo-Durham Mustangs (6-2), 9-7.

Dunkirk fell behind 1-0 after the first inning, before battling back to take a 2-1 lead in the top half of the second inning, but Cairo-Durham used a five-run second to build a 6-2 lead and scored two more runs in the bottom of the third for an 8-2 lead.

“They put the ball in play,” Dunkirk coach Frank Jagoda said. “And when you put the ball in play, things are going to happen. And that’s really what happened in the first three innings. A lot of their opportunities came with two strikes and putting the ball in play and causing us to make errors.”

The Mustangs got on the board in the first on an RBI ground out off the bat of Chance Ryan, before Sam Pepe gave the Marauders its only lead of the game with a two-run double in the top of the second.

Juliam Fred started the Marauders’ second inning by being hit by a pitch, before stealing second and advancing to third after the catcher’s throw went into centerfield. Troy Smith-Petrella followed with a walk in front of a Randy Cooper strikeout, setting up Pepe’s at-bat.

The Mustangs answered in their half of the second, scoring five runs – only one earned – on four hits, a walk and two Dunkirk errors.

“Right now, it’s hard to describe,” Jagoda said of the Dunkirk errors. “I think it’s our lack of focus. I don’t know if it’s nerves. When you see a ground ball, you field it. After you make a mistake, it’s what do you do next time? Or what do you do if you make a mistake?”

“That’s always a big thing in the beginning of the game to capitalize on errors,” Cairo-Durham coach – and Dunkirk Class of 1977 alum – Tom Karnes said. “And luckily we were fortunate enough to do that.”

Justin Jump had an RBI single and later scored on an error while George Pooters singled and scored on an error on a ball off the bat of Ryan. Marty Margiasso finished the scoring in the inning with an RBI single that plated Travis Herrick, who worked a walk off Dunkirk starting pitcher Tyreek Ruiz.

“We were seeing the ball well (Friday),” Karnes said. “I was a little nervous because we didn’t have batting practice or infield practice, but they came to play.”

Ruiz finished allowing six runs – two earned – on six hits while striking out one and walking one.

“Tyreek battles,” Jagoda said. “He got it up a little bit, but I think (Cairo-Durham) hit real well. I was impressed with how well they hit to the opposite field. And then they were real good two-strike hitters. I thought they battled real well with two strikes. In the first four innings, we didn’t battle at all with two strikes.”

Pepe came on in relief to start the bottom of the third and allowed two runs, as Christopher Zwoboda crossed home plate on a wild pitch and Ryan picked up his second RBI with a single that plated Matthew Mitchell.

“The first three innings, it was just a lack of intensity,” Jagoda said of his team. “I keep trying to preach that they need to get off the bus ready to play. And if they don’t get off the bus ready to play, this is what’s going to happen. Eventually we’re going to have to get tired of getting our teeth kicked in early so we have a shot. We need to come out with intensity and firing on all cylinders. We need to take a few swings early and we’re not doing that right now.”

Pepe allowed just one more run and one more hit the rest of the way, finishing the day surrendering three runs on three hits while striking out six and walking three.

“I thought Sam kept the ball down,” Jagoda said. “He didn’t get hit hard at all. But then again, when you start making plays, it makes it look like he’s doing really well too. So it goes hand-in-hand. If you make the plays, you can talk about how Sam kept the ball down and how we got outs behind him. One thing Sam needs to do now is get ahead. He needs to throw strike one. And he’s not throwing strike one yet. He’s throwing ball one first and with that situation, you’re behind the 8-ball right away. But overall, I thought he came in and shut the door.”

The Marauders chipped away at the Mustangs lead throughout the afternoon, scoring a run in the fifth, one in the sixth and three in the seventh, but were unable to catch Cairo-Durham.

Nate Skubis chased home Ruiz with an RBI single for the Marauders’ run in the fifth and Pepe scored a run on a wild pitch in the sixth.

“I think the last four innings, we got a lot out of (the game),” Jagoda said. “Hopefully we can turn that into something next week when we have four games.

“I thought Nate Skubis had some good at-bats (Friday),” Jagoda continued. “Sam had better at-bats (Friday), but we also have some guys that need to get better.”

But the Marauders had the opportunity to do more damage in the fifth as they left the bases loaded after Mustangs’ starter Margiasso got Zack Crandall swinging to end the threat.

“I don’t know how much more batting practice people need,” Jagoda said. “I think striking out is a mindset. I think professionally, in college and in high school, striking out is a mindset. It’s an attitude actually. It’s got to change.”

In the seventh inning, Smith-Petrella, who walked with one out, moved to second on a two-out walk to Pepe and to third after Gianni DeJesus was hit by a pitch, scored on a wild pitch to cut the Mustangs’ lead to, 9-5. A Skubis double plated Pepe and DeJesus, but reliever David Gabrielsen got Devaun Farnham-Dejesus to fly out harmlessly to third to end the game.

“Give credit to Dunkirk,” Karnes said. “They came back. They are very well coached and they fought all the way to the end. I was very proud of their performance and my pitcher’s performance to stop it at the end.

“I’ve been ahead 10 or 12 runs and lost games,” Karnes continued. “So I’m always leery of it. I was nervous at the end because I wanted to come away with the win.”

“We had an opportunity at the end to win,” Jagoda said. “And not only that, we had opportunities the last three innings to get the win. We were only one hit away from tying the game.”

Margiasso worked the first five innings of the game, allowing three runs on three hits while striking out 10, walking five and hitting a batter.

“Marty threw a very good game,” Karnes said. “He’s been around the plate all the time and I was very proud of his performance (Friday).”

Margiasso was relieved in the sixth by Michael Panicola, who gave way to Gabrielsen in the seventh. The duo combined to allow four runs on two hits while walking four, hitting two batters and striking out four, giving the Mustang pitchers 14 punchouts on the day.

“We had five strikeouts in the first two innings,” Jagoda said. “We didn’t battle. We took three called third strikes in the first two innings. But their team, obviously going back to Tom and (former Dunkirk varsity baseball coach Al Stuhlmiller), they battled with two strikes. And they were the better team in that category.

The trip to Cooperstown was more about just the opportunity to play at legendary Doubleday Field, as Jagoda and Karnes both took their teams to the National Baseball Hall of Fame to learn some of the history of the game.

“The tour was very nice,” Jagoda said. “From what I saw from the players, is that they listened intently and they looked at the displays and they read the plaques. And I think they got a heck of a lot out of being there and the history of the game. Our tour guide went all the way back to the early 1800’s and how they made a ball with a rock and leather. He went back to the bare bones of the game and I thought that was a really good experience for the kids.”

“It was great,” Karnes added. “They saw the Hall of Fame and a lot kids had never played here or been to the Hall of Fame, so it was a very positive experience. You’ve got to love baseball to come here. (Doubleday Field) was nice. Just thinking back to all of the people that have played on it, it was awesome to think that we could be a part of playing on that same field. It was a great a great experience and one long in the making.”

NOTES: Skubis finished the day 2 for 4 with three RBI … Smith-Petrella was 1 for 1 with three walks and two runs scored … Magiasso 2 for 4 with an RBI for Cairo-Durham while teammate Mitchell had 2 for 2, including a double, with two runs scored and a walk.