Baseball: Conestoga wins district opener
By Nick Boccella
Posted: 05/19/2015 10:33:10 AM EDT
“Anytime you win a playoff game, it comes down to pitching and defense, and timely hitting,’ Conestoga head coach John Vogan said. "Brendon pitched a great game and I thought we played outstanding defense behind him, and then we hit the ball and we were able to put it in play and score runs.’
Senior pitcher Brendon Little went the distance, allowing one earned run in seven innings on only 88 pitches. However, the star pitcher wasn’t shy about giving credit to his team’s hitting.
“It was our offense right off the bat,’ Little said. "We set the tone in the first inning scoring two runs right off the bat.’
Little wasn’t too shabby himself in the first inning as he retired all three batters he faced.
The Pioneers started the scoring when senior Ryne Ogren walked, stole second on a wild pitch, and fellow senior Leonard Watson got on base. Then, with runners on the corners, Junior Tommy Fogarty doubled to left field, scoring both Ogren and Watson.
Freshman Luke Czepiel and Junior Greyson Avots had back to back singles with Avots’ scoring Fogarty, and following a walk, Brendon Little knocked home a run on an error. To make their start more impressive, ’Stoga did all their damage with two outs.
“They came out and were focused and put the ball into play and we got a couple of breaks,’ Vogan said. "But you know what? Sometimes they say you make your own chances, make your own choices there and we did, we helped ourselves by making some good choices.’
Unlike the first inning, the Pioneers did not catch a break in the top of the second, when a pair of errors led to two runs. But they did not back down, and on an overcast, breezy day, the team fought back strong.
“We know when we have Little on the mound, or any of our pitchers, all we’ve got to do is score three or four runs and we know we’re in good shape,’ Vogan said.
Little knocked home a pinch runner, junior Percy Mottley, in the third inning and, combined with his strong pitching, led the Pioneers through the game. After surrendering a solo home run in the top of the fifth inning, he responded by retiring the rest of the batters he faced.
Ryne Ogren delivered the finishing blow to the Indians with a blast to the left field fence that scored two runs in the sixth inning. "The key was feeding off of each other’s energy in the field and at the plate,’ Ogren said.
With a pair of insurance runs and Little closing the deal in the sixth inning, the Pioneers clinched the win. In the short term, the team can enjoy this one, but now they must prepare for another win-or-go-home game.
“We enjoyed this one tonight,’ Vogan said. "We had 18 guys who played their first playoff game ever. It’s incredible that they were playing with the poise that they played with. They didn’t look like a bunch of kids playing their first playoff game.’
For the seniors, including Little and Ogren, every game could be the last time they put on a Conestoga uniform. However, keeping the underclassmen motivated won’t be a hard task for them.
“They just want to play. They’re just a great group of guys and they’re just warriors and they don’t want to end the season and neither do I,’ Ogren said. "We have the same mindset and we’re just going to go and finish as many games as possible.’
The games will only get tougher from here, but the team is ready for that and awaits the challenge.
“You just got to prepare for it like it’s any other game,’ Little said. "You don’t want to be playing any differently than you have been playing or put any undue pressure on yourself.’
“We’re not going to change what got us here,’ Vogan said. "This team has been together through thick and thin all year, and I think that’s why we’re here. Everybody supports everybody else in all situations. And that’s the difference.’
Vogan noted the Pioneers’ focus: "If you ask them how many games it takes to win the district title, they’ll tell you, the next