Falcons need one more victory
Charley Rogers admits he glances at the Colonial League baseball standings often, so he knew the implications of what last week's game against Catasauqua held.
A win against the Roughs would station Salisbury at 10-4 in the Colonial League. That mark would tie the Falcons with two other teams as the No. 2 seed in the upcoming league tournament with just a few games remaining. And that No. 2 seed awards a first-round bye in the postseason, something Rogers knows all too well from playing on the Falcons' basketball team in the winter.
Much like their previous meeting when Salisbury rallied from a 5-1 deficit to earn a victory, the Falcons (10-5 in Colonial League) erased a 4-1 hole to earn another come-from-behind win, 5-4, last Thursday at Sheckler Elementary School.
Rogers was right in the middle of it all, pitching six innings and knocking in the game-tying run with a single in the sixth inning. Evan Kulig grounded into a double play in the next at-bat, but the senior scored Joey Galantini to give the Falcons the lead for good.
"I look at the standings pretty frequently," Rogers said. "I knew we were sitting tied for third. They were the first team out of the playoff picture, so I know that they needed it.
"We're trying to get that second seed because obviously we wouldn't have to play Saturday. And then we could just play Tuesday and Thursday with our one-two punch in [Chad] Cooperman and Kulig."
Trailing 4-1 going into the fifth inning, Kulig reached base on a walk after two quick Falcon outs. Cooperman (2-for-3 with 1 RBI) then singled to keep Salisbury's momentum going, and Mike Palmer's single to right field brought home Kulig. Cooperman came around to score later in the frame on Catasauqua's second of three errors to make it a 4-3 deficit.
Galantini opened the sixth by reaching base on an error, advancing to second base when a Rough Rider throw to first was too high to handle. Rogers then drove a 2-2 pitch up the middle of the infield to score Galantini and tie it up at five.
"He was probably throwing 75 percent of his stuff off speed today," Rogers said. "So I was really sitting on it, and I knew that if he threw me a fastball I would have enough time to adjust and maybe foul it off. I did get the slider, and I got enough to put it up the middle."
Salisbury's Andrew Sukanick started the game on the mound, but Rogers knew very well his name may be called at some point. He may not have expected to come in as early as he did, though.
After Sukanick allowed a walk and two hits in the first, head coach Mike Pochron called on Rogers to take over with runners on first and third base and a 1-0 deficit with no outs. The Roughs scored two more runs later in the inning after Jordan Madaya's double, but Rogers was brilliant from that moment on.
"I was really just trying to get a ground ball because I know Cooperman and Kulig are good up the middle," Rogers said. "They ended up getting a single off of me, but we were good enough to battle back."
The Rough Riders added to their lead in the fourth when Calvin Thomson (3-for-4) lined an RBI-single to right field that scored Dakota Schiffer.
Rogers, however, never lost confidence or focus on the mound. Despite being put in a tough situation in the first inning, he allowed just one run on five hits. He struck out five batters compared to four walks.
Cooperman, who returned from injury just a few games ago, recorded the save after pitching a quick 1-2-3 seventh inning.
"I think we're playing pretty well right now because our fielding is coming around," Rogers said. "With Chad [Cooperman] coming back, it just makes our lineup that much deeper and our field that much more solid with another good baseball player like him."
The Falcons dropped their game against Palisades the next day, 9-1, but came back to beat Northwestern on Monday to earn a tie for the West Division lead. With two wins over the Tigers this season, the Falcons hold the tiebreaker in a two-way tie. They'll need to beat Southern Lehigh in Wednesday's season finale to lock up the No. 2 seed and the bye.