Hall of Fame Inductee Spotlight
Date: Dec 14, 2018
Sanford – The Sanford Mainers showed every ounce of resiliency they had on Tuesday night at Goodall Park as they fought for all nine innings, eventually coming up just short against the defending champion Valley Blue Sox by a final of 8-6. Despite their season coming to a close, this Mainers team has shown some kind of toughness over the final weeks as they overcame numerous hurdles to even put themselves in a spot to make a championship run.
One of the craziest see-saw affairs the Mainers, or any team in the NECBL, has been in this summer started in the very first inning, as after the first at-bats for the Blue Sox, the Moose found themselves down a quick 2-0. But, as would be the case for most of the early-going of this game, Sanford bounced right back in the bottom half.
With one away in the inning, Jonathan White (Lawrenceville, Ga./Presbyterian) started the rally with a hard hit single into left field to set the table for the meat of the order. Johnny Rizer (Cypress, Texas/Texas Christian University), a.k.a. “Johnny On The Spot” for the Mainers, didn’t waste a moment in bringing home White as he laced an opposite field RBI triple off of the left centerfield fence to cut the lead to just 2-1. Following suit, Shane Marshall (Webster, N.Y./Binghamton) stepped right up and on the second pitch he saw grounded a ball to the right side to bring Rizer home and knot the game up at 2 runs apiece.
In their next at-bats in the bottom of the 2nd, the Moose took an early lead for themselves thanks to the work in the batter’s box from the bottom of the order to help out the guy’s at the top. The eight and nine hitters, Brad Czerniejewski (Lake Forest, Illinois/Texas Christian University) and Carmine Pagano (McLeansville, N.C./UNC-Asheville) found themselves on first and second respectively to lead off the inning after both came up with two-strike singles. After Czerniejewski was called out on a controversial call trying to steal third, Pagano was still able to put himself into scoring position at second. Jake Alu (Hamilton, N.J./Boston College) came up clutch like he has all season long for the Moose and ripped a line drive back up the middle to bring Pagano around from second and give the Mainers a 3-2 lead after just two innings.
The see-saw continued to sway as in the next half inning, Valley was able to tie the game up with some good two-strike hitting of their own as the game remained tied heading to the bottom of the 4th.
Sanford was able to reclaim the lead as once against Carmine Pagano put himself on base and a Jake Alu sacrifice bunt moved him into scoring position with just one away in the inning. After a strikeout though, the job fell onto the shoulders of Johnny Rizer with two-away and he came through just like he had in the first by roping an RBI single into right centerfield to score Pagano and give the Moose a 4-3 lead after four.
The next couple of innings turned were tough pills to swallow for the Mainers and their fans in attendance as after tying the game in the 5th and a lightning delay in the top of the 6th, the Blue Sox were able to plate four runs on two outs to double up the Mainers and take an 8-4 lead.
Head coach Chris Morris put his faith in his bullpen once again to keep the score manageable for Sanford over their final three at-bats and, of course, his guys took the hill and delivered just that. Jack Weisenburger (Rockford, Mich./Michigan) came on first and threw a perfect 7th and 8th inning as he did not allow a baserunner and retired all six batters he faced, including striking out a pair.
The Moose made it a game in the bottom of the 8th as they fought with everything they had to make it manageable to try and pull off their third comeback walk-off win of the season. After Conner Shepherd (Upland, Calif./Texas Christian University) singled to lead things off, pinch hitter Brandon Lankford (Mocksville, N.C./UNC-Asheville) hammered a double to the left field fence that brought Shepherd all the way around from first to cut the Valley lead to just three. Two batters later, Brad Czerniejewski came up with one of his biggest hits on the season as he smacked a single back up the gut to bring Lankford around from second to cut the Mainers’ deficit to just two at 8-6 at the end of eight full.
For the 9th, Sanford brought on the other Big 10 Conference flamethrower that has help anchor the bullpen all season long in John Murphy (Merchantville, N.J./Maryland) who promptly put up a scoreless inning, racking up a pair of strikeouts of his own. This kept the score at just 8-6 as the game moved into the last frame of the night. Unfortunately though, Sanford wasn’t able to get any runs across in the 9th as the Valley Blue Sox clinched their second straight Northern Division Championship and head on to the NECBL Championship Series for a rematch of last year’s series against Ocean State.
The Mainers finished their 2018 campaign by going 24-18 in the regular season and locking up the two-seed in this year’s playoffs. This season comes on the heels of missing the playoffs last year and was a welcome sight for Mainers fans to be able to see some playoff baseball at Goodall Park. As these incredibly talented young men make their way home for the remainder of this summer and head into their school years they can be proud in knowing that they added another amazing chapter into the history books here in Sanford and will forever be a Mainer.