JOHNSTOWN – The battle for the top spot in the Foothills Council standings came down to pitching and defense; and both Johnstown and Queensbury had them.
The Sir Bills’ Joe Nellis and Queensbury’s Charlie Peltz were locked in a game-long pitcher’s duel with Nellis finishing the game with 12 strikeouts and Peltz nine.
The game came down to which team could make the most of its break when it happened.
For the Spartans it came with two outs in the top of the seventh.
Alston Moses, the No. 9 batter, worked the count for a two-out walk. The top of the Spartans’ line up did its job, connecting for three straight singles en route to put up three unanswered runs to take home a 4-1 league victory.
“With two outs, obviously, we were thinking extra innings,” Queensbury coach Jay Marra said. “Nellis pitched a great game. It was just a matter of defense and pitching all day long. The difference was ours held up and they made a couple of miscues. Plus, we got a couple of big hits there at the end.”
The loss drops Johnstown into a thirdplace tie with Broadalbin-Perth (4-3) in the Foothills standings, while Scotia-Glenville moves into second with a 5-2 record.
Queensbury stands alone on top of the standings at 6-1 and South Glens Falls is fifth at 3-4. Gloversville (2-4) and Hudson Falls (1-5) were rained out Monday and will play today at Husky Field.
“That has been our Achilles Heel so far, making the big play when we need to,” Johnstown coach Aaron Mraz said. “We are young and a little inexperienced with [closing out a game], but we are trying to instill that in them that every pitch every play you can’t lose focus. You have got to want the ball hit to you. We are not there yet. It is too bad because it was a great pitching performance by Joey, we just didn’t get the job done behind him.”
With a light rain falling, Nellis was sharp on the mound early for the Sir Bills, striking out six, but allowing a base runner in each of the first three innings on a pair of walks and a second-inning single by Erik Wettersten.
Peltz was equally impressive striking out five through the first three innings and did not allow a Johnstown base runner until Adam Caputo drew a walk with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.
The Spartans plated the first run of the game in the top of the sixth.
Eric Daley led off with a single, stole second and came around to score on Peltz’s RBI double.
The Sir Bills answered in the bottom of the sixth with Jon Heroth doubling down the left field line and scoring on Rich Lee’s RBI single to left .
Lee headed for first as Heroth headed for home with the tying run, but a solid play from Queensbury left fielder Zach Parsons, cut Lee down as he slid into second.
“It goes unnoticed most of the time but hitting the cut off man [shortstop Phil Wettersten] and then getting the guy at second was big,” Marra said.
Mraz said Parsons’ play was a game-changer.
“They did their job defensively but with no outs, we can not afford an out there,” he said. “You have to be 100 percent sure about going to second. Then we can bunt the guy over and we still have the momentum and the rally going on. We can’t get rallied out of that.
But when you practice aggressively that is what you get . Coach and I talked about it after the play.”
The Sir Bills followed the play with a walk issued to Ryan Auty and Dan Nellis reached on a fielder’s choice. Nellis advanced to third on a throwing error by Peltz on an attempted pick off, but was stranded there when Peltz enticed Henderson to ground out for the final out.
With the game tied, Joe Nellis set the first two Spartans down on five pitches before Moses worked the count full before drawing the walk.
Joe Marasco, Erik Wettersten and Eric Daley followed with singles before Peltz reached on an error to take the 4-1 lead before Nellis picked up his 12th strikeout of the game to get out of the inning.
The Sir Bills picked up a base runner with one out in the bottom of the seventh when Joe Nellis walked. However, Peltz dug in and struck out the last two batters to earn the 4-1 victory.
Peltz and Marasco led the Queensbury (8-2 overall, 6-1 Foothills) with doubles.
Heroth doubled for Johnstown, while Lee had a single and an RBI.
“It was still a great game, a fun game, and we really don’t have anything to hang our heads about,” Mraz said. “Early on we hit the ball hard but right at them. They had us played right. I just told them keep hitting the ball and good things will happen. It was just one of those games. It was a great pitcher’s game. The kids really wanted it but it’s not over yet. The kids know now they can play with them, so we are going to go up there and give it a shot.”
Queensbury 4, Johnstown 1
Queensbury000 001 3 – 4 7 1
Johnstown000 001 0 – 1 2 1
Peltz and Farrier; Nellis and Caputo.