PLYMOUTH — They say hitting is contagious, but once the Rochester bats caught fire Monday, it was downright virulent.
Rochester cranked out nine hits for eight runs in the fifth and sixth innings, tying up the Pilgrims at 6-all on a Chad Miller grand slam during a five-run fifth, then taking the lead for the first and last time with a three-run sixth as they ousted host Plymouth 9-8 in a Class 3A Sectional 19 semifinal at Bill Nixon Field.
The Zebras ultimately dropped the final 8-0 against Marian, which advanced through John Glenn in the other semifinal Monday morning.
“You hit it on the head with hitting being contagious once you start,” said Rochester head coach Brian Hooker. “Someone asked us if we were down earlier in the game. We weren’t down, I don’t think, but we were letting some umpires and some other little things get us down and dragging our heads. But they came up, and Chad, I don’t know what to say about him, he just came through.”
“In the sixth inning we just didn’t have the right pitch to get out of it,” said Plymouth head coach Tony Plothow. “Give them some credit, they battled back. It’s just a tough loss for our seniors.
Plymouth led throughout the contest as Kyle Cartwright — who finished 2 for 4 at the plate with two runs scored — led off the game with a towering solo shot straight out to center in the bottom of the first. The Pilgrims then tacked on five more runs in the second and third innings off a pair of two-out RBI hits by Joe Knapp and Houston Hodges that scored Dan Smith and Knapp, respectively in the second, and consecutive two-out RBI hits by Smith and Knapp in the third. Smith’s hit was a two-run double to center as the junior second baseman finished 2 for 3 with three runs and an RBI batting in the seven spot.
But Rochester knotted the game at 6-all in the fifth on a two-out grand slam from Chad Miller, his second homer of the night after a solo shot to put the Zebras on the board in the third inning.
Plymouth retook the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth off a two-run single to right from Phil Iwinski, but Rochester one-upped the Pilgrims with three in the top of the sixth. Travis Wottring blooped an RBI single off the end of his bat, Plymouth reliever Jordan Scheetz walked in a run with the bases loaded, and Hodges almost caught Chris Messersmith scoring the winning run with a perfect throw to the plate on a Cameron Screeton sacrifice fly to center.
Plymouth closed the season with a strong 18-9 after a Northern Lakes Conference championship campaign.
The Pilgrims bid goodbye to six seniors in ace pitcher Richie Luva as well as Cartwright, Hodges, Iwinski, Mitch Good and four-year player Damon Howe, who started out a tough senior season with an arm injury that kept him off the mound most of the year and finished on a hard note sitting out Monday’s game after protesting a called third strike against him in Plymouth’s opener Thursday.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our group of seniors for what they accomplished this year with a share of the NLC and 18 wins, and really answering some questions,” said Plothow. “I appreciated their efforts, and this group of seniors was pretty special.”
• ROCHESTER 9, PLYMOUTH 8
At Class 3A Plymouth
Rochester: 001 053 0 — 9 11 3
Plymouth: 123 020 0 — 8 10 1
Aaron Stuart, O’Dell (5, W) and Carter Screeton; Ricky Luva, Jordan Scheetz (6, L) and Kyle Cartwright.
2B: Dan Smith 2 (P), Joe Knapp (P).
HR: Cartwright (P), Chad Miller 2 (R).
Record: Rochester 13-12, Plymouth 18-9 (final).