By MATT PARRINO
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — In a baseball game where both North Tonawanda and Tonawanda had to go deep into their pitching arsenal after a full week of action, both coaches knew it was going to be a marathon to the finish.
Almost three and a half hours after the first pitch, Tonawanda's John Frank and NT's Eric Partell were right.
The Warriors outlasted the Lumberjacks, scoring 10 runs in the top of the sixth inning en route to a blow out, 22-12 victory Friday evening at Ramsay Field in North Tonawanda.
The T-NT rivalry was evident at the diamond even before the first pitch, as "The Tribe" fan section tailgated in anticipation for the game. Frank said his players got fired up for the first T-NT baseball game in several years, especially the seniors.
"We haven't played T-NT in a couple years and it's a rivalry we'll always remember," he said. "For the seniors it's their last T-NT game with any sport or team, so we talked about going out in the right fashion and sure enough we did."
The Jacks (1-7 Niagara Frontier League) led 10-7 headed into the final two innings and had ace Matt Noakes, who entered the game an inning earlier, on the hill. Tonawanda (8-3, 6-1 ECIC IV) loaded the bases in the top of the sixth, but with two outs NT seemed to still be in the driver's seat.
Warriors second baseman Cody McGregor stepped to the plate and Noakes struck him out on an off speed pitch in the dirt, but the ball got by Jacks catcher Jim Burns. Patrick Ball reacted quickly to the play and raced home from third, beating a diving Burns at the plate to keep the inning alive.
Then senior first baseman Jared Zellner stepped into the box with a chance to bring his team all the way back from a 10-5 deficit with one swing, and he delivered, hitting a two-run single to left field. The Warriors tied the game at 10 and then took the lead after senior Steven Warthling singled and third baseman Nick Pullo was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to plate the 11th run.
Tonawanda piled on, scoring another six runs in the sixth and then added five in the seventh off NT relievers Chris Mellott and Chris Jurczak.
Frank said after the game that despite logging more innings than usual this week, his team always plays to win.
"We rallied to get a bases loaded, two-out, dropped third strike and it was a great heads up play by Patrick knowing he has to hustle to home and either beat the catcher or pitcher there to score," Frank said. "We have a pension for late games here. All those runs came with two outs in the sixth and we did the same thing against Eden on Wednesday. The kids have a never give up, never say die attitude."
Zellner went 3 for 5 in the game with a pair of doubles and five RBIs to lead the way for the Warriors.
Frank expects Zellner to produce every time he steps to the plate.
"He's been doing it all year and he's been swinging a hot stick right from the beginning," Frank said. "I moved him up from the fourth to the three spot (in the lineup) since the middle of the year and it's been working perfect right now."
Steven Warthling pitched 4 2/3 innings of relieve to earn the victory. He also went 3 for 4 with three runs scored. Short stop Ben Stich scored four runs, drew three walks and had a pair of hits.
For the Jacks, Matt Noakes hit a two-RBI double in the first inning and pitched well before the wheels fell off for NT in the sixth. Taylor Mellott had two RBIs, Devon Johannes went 2 for 3 with a run and a walk, Nick Baron drew three walks and had a pair of singles and Curtis Swan started on the mound and recorded two hits and scored a pair of runs.
The Jacks walked 15 THS batters and the Warriors racked up 13 walks in the contest.
Partell said his team was right there late in the game after playing solid defense all game, which the coaching staff has stressed recently in practice. But that it has to cut down on walks to finish off games more consistently.
"We knew we weren't deep in the (pitching) department but we had guys trying to throw who haven't stepped on a mound all season," Partell said. "We expected a high-scoring affair because we're both short on arms, but guys went out there and tried their best. Walks hurt."Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.