It was a long day of baseball at Mataraza Field in Pine Bush on Saturday and the beginning of a new era for the Valley Central baseball team.
The Vikings held off the Bushmen in the first game, and then got a little bleeder from Danny Bell that led to two runs, giving the Vikings a 10-9 win in the second game, completing a doubleheader sweep.
The wins gave new coach Robert Leonard his first two victories since replacing former coach Eric Bartle, who spent nearly three decades on the Vikings’ bench.
Valley Central also held off the Bushmen for a 6-5 win in the first game.
“I thought they played pretty good,” Leonard said. “I was surprised that my pitchers held their composure.
Offensively, I thought we hit the ball very well. We’ve still got a lot of work to do on defense, and some pickoffs and stuff like that.”
Some of the deficiencies could come from not having played together in two years as the 2020 spring sports season was canceled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even this season was delayed by five weeks and teams only took the field for the first time on April 19.
“They were excited this morning and ready to go,” Leonard said. “I think they felt kind of like me yesterday.
They really didn’t know how it was going to go or where they were because nobody’s played in two years.
They were happy to get out there and get going.”
Saturday was the first day baseball teams faced off against each other, with just less than two weeks to prepare.
The pitchers struggled, and with a condensed season and doubleheaders most Saturdays for the Orange County interscholastic Athletic Association teams, endurance and arms will be tested.
Both games were long, as the first game started at 10 a.m. and it took about three hours for the Vikings to secure their 6-5 victory. After a 20-minute break, the second game took more than three hours, as pitchers on both teams struggled with their command, leading to a lot of base runners and 19 combined runs.
“Early baseball is a little sloppy at times, but the kids played hard,” Leonard said. “They played good and both teams played hard. It was good to have two close games.”
The second game was tied at 8-8, heading into the seventh inning, but the Bushmen, who were the visiting team in the second game, took a 9-8 lead, heading into the bottom of the seventh, leading up to Bello’s heroics.
“Pine Bush is a great program and (Pine Bush coach) Matt (Boffalo) does a great job with that group. He has a ton of kids and we didn’t know what to expect.”
Pine Bush’s Edward Garmendiz had the loudest hit of the day, a solo home run to center field in the fifth inning, as the Vikings took a 5-2 lead in the first inning, and Pine Bush scored four runs over the fifth and sixth to tie the game.
The Vikings broke a 4-4 tie with two runs in the sixth inning of the first, game and then held off a Bushmen rally in the bottom of the seventh to pull out the victory.
Boffalo could not be reached by press time. Section 9 COVID-19 rules prohibit in-person interviews.
“I was super happy today,” Leonard said. “And I was happy for the kids.”