Defensive miscues, not 19 hits, seal A#039;s fate

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 12, 2003

Errors proved more than costly for the Class C Hayfield/Austin Athletics baseball team -- they decided the game.

The A's committed three errors that led to five unearned runs, including the game-winner in a 7-6 Twin Rivers League loss to the Rochester Blues Friday night at Marcusen Park in Austin.

The Blues rallied from a 2-0 deficit with five runs in the top of the sixth inning with six of their 19 hits off A's hurler Joe Serratore. It was two errors, however, that accounted for four unearned runs.

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"It was good enough to win," player/coach Serratore said after the complete-game loss. "I can't win with errors."

Serratore took to the mound after intended starter Chris Pack came up with shoulder pain while warming up. Serratore scattered 18 singles, one triple and no walks over nine innings and still had a chance to win.

After Hayfield/Austin came back to tie the game at 6-6 with a pair of runs in the seventh, Rochester won it on a two-out error in the eighth. Jim Strain allowed one hit over the final two innings for the save, needing just four pitches to escape the A's top hitters in the bottom of the ninth.

"That was a bad ninth inning, bad baseball," Serratore said, "and that's what bothered me. We didn't give the ninth inning a chance."

The A's never should have been in a position to lose the game, but a routine grounder skipped beneath the glove of Hayfield second baseman Joe Ciola and allowed the go-ahead runs to score. Rochester kept the rally alive with three straight singles and two more tallies for a 5-2 lead.

"It took a big hop up and the next hop stayed flat as a pancake," Ciola said.

The Blues already had one run across after Josh Matti led off the inning with a triple to the fence in right. A passed ball allowed the run to score, but back-to-back singles one out later erased what would have been another unearned run.

Serratore got Jay Ellerbusch to ground out to Ciola, but Bob Klein's grounder skipped right through Ciola's wickets with two outs.

"That error at second, if that didn't happen, things would have been a lot different," said Blues manager Nate Matti. "After the error it was wide open."

Hayfield came right back with two runs in its half of the sixth on a two-run single by Luke Fischer, and the A's got two more in the seventh to tie it up.

Ciola walked and Serratore singled to start, and Josh Kunze advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt. Troy Tigner grounded out to second to plate Ciola, and Al Dahlen delivered a two-out single up the middle to score courtesy runner Todd Walerak.

The A's gave the game back to Rochester in the eighth on a two-out throwing error. Strain led off with a single, stole second, but neglected to move up on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Mike Lawler. Matt Rink lined out to Serratore for the second out, but Josh Matti dribbled a single up the middle that Fischer stopped with an all-out dive to his left. Fischer whirled and threw wide of first from his knees and Strain scored the game-winner.

The A's still have the lead in the Twin Rivers League's White Division, falling to 10-3 and 14-14 overall. The Blues (14-6, 13-4) closed the gap, but with just one TRL game remaining. Rochester hosts Lake City on Sunday in its last league game.

Hayfield/Austin played Saturday night in the second round of the Miller Lite Classic round-robin tournament in Jordan against the fifth-ranked hosts. The sixth-ranked Austin Greyhounds fell to No. 2 Cold Spring, 3-2, in Friday night's first round, and the A's take over the remaining two games. H/A finishes up with a game against 15th-ranked Shakopee Sunday night.