JOHNSTOWN - Despite all its wounds, Johnstown was able to put up a fight against division-leading Queensbury on Wednesday.
The Spartans, however, had enough strength to hold.
Johnstown, which is down three players from its roster to begin the year, scored five straight runs between the fourth and fifth innings to take a 5-4 lead, but the Spartans flexed their muscle to score three runs in the sixth before holding on for the 7-6 Foothills Council win.
Johnstown’s Ryan Auty (4) receives the throw as Queensbury’s Eric Daley attempts to steal second base during the first inning of a Foothills Council game at Johnstown High School on?Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Erich Neuhaus)
"Winning this kind of game is going to make us better than winning a game 15-0," veteran Queensbury skipper Jay Marra said. "Playing under pressure is what it's all about."
Right after Johnstown took the lead in the fifth, Queensbury immediately responded in the sixth when No. 9 hitter Phil Wettersen, who started on the mound, knocked a two-run double to put Queensbury back on top 6-5 before coming home from third when Charlie Peltz was caught in a rundown between first and second.
Wettersen plated before Peltz was tagged out.
"We walked the leadoff guy and then we don't execute a first and third like we're supposed to," Johnstown coach Aaron Mraz said. "That's a big run that seventh run they get. But they're a good team and you give teams chances like that and that's what they're supposed to do."
The run ended up being just enough insurance for Queensbury, which is now 6-0 in the Foothills and currently ranked 10th in New York State Class A.
Kieran McCoy manufactured his own run in the bottom half when he singled, stole second and third before scoring on a passed ball to cut the score to 7-6.
The Sir Bills still had a chance to tie with Jason Roth 90 feet away and two outs, but sophomore reliever Zachary Parsons struck out senior Steven Brown to end the threat.
Parsons, a left-hander, gave up one run, one hit and struck out three in his 2 2/3 innings to earn the win.
"He's not an overpowering pitcher, but his fastball tails and when he's getting his curve ball over, he's very effective," Marra said. "That's a good experience for him."
That was Marra's second reliever as Alexander Pontiff was only able to get one out in the fifth.
The first batter the right-hander faced, Matt Szurek, teed off on a belt-high fastball that was sent over Parson's head in left field for a two-run triple to tie the game at 4. A passed ball scored Szurek to give the Sir Bills a 5-4 lead.
Johnstown was also able to get to Queensbury's starter too. Wettersen, a sophomore who was perfect through the first 3 1/3 innings with a 4-0 lead, only managed two more outs. In the fourth, Wettersen gave up a leadoff single before walking three batters with his defense providing two errors and two passed balls to allow the Sir Bills to plate Jason Roth (1-for-4, two runs scored) and Szurek (1-for-3, two RBIs, two runs scored).
Despite his team's mistakes to allow three unearned runs in the game, Marra was impressed how the Sir Bills took advantage of them.
"I'm proud of Johnstown," Marra said. "They did a nice job. That's a nice battle. They fought really hard and I hate to see them lose."
The Sir Bills could've helped themselves and emergency starter McCoy, who only allowed three earned and five hits. In the first inning, two Spartan runs scored when a high fly ball by Parsons was misplayed by Mike Everest in right field. Then in the third, Alston Moses, who was given second base by an overthrow by Brown at shortstop, scored off a Parsons single.
"We, unfortunately defensively, gave up some runs, as they gave us a few gifts, but you just can't do that in a game like this," Mraz said.
Although six runs is the second most the Spartans have given up all year, the Sir Bills stranded bases loaded in the fourth and fifth innings when they scored a combined five runs.
Johnstown, which has lost its last four games, managed just four hits, all coming from the top three spots in the order. Mraz said the bottom of the lineup needs to pick up the slack.
"Unfortunately, we're not getting production out of the bottom part of our lineup right now," he said. "We need to get them to at least get the ball in play and make some good things happen. They're frustrated, it's not that they're not working, so hopefully that will come around and we'll explode."
A boost will come on Monday, though, when Johnstown gets back Mitch Vdoviak, who's missed the past four games due to illness, and Derek Barnholt, who hasn't played a game this year with blood clots in his leg.
Vdoviak has been batting cleanup and has been solid on the mound, while Barnholt was the projected cleanup hitter coming into the year and will serve as the No. 3 starter or reliever.
Mraz said his ballclub is excited about getting those two back in the lineup and could realistically only have one loss in the league with a base hit here or there. And although his team battles like it proved on Wednesday, with a faster start, the battle will be much easier.
"I think we're in good shape," Mraz said. "The kids are playing hard. We just have to prepare better. We're not prepared at the beginning of the game like we need to be right now."
Queensbury 7, Johnstown 6
Queensbury 301 003 0 - 7 5 3
Johnstown 000 231 0 - 6 4 2
Wetterson, Pontiff (5), Parsons (5) and Farrier; McCoy and Hecht.