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April 18, 2017

Blair baseball falls short against Quince Orchard

by Ryan Handel, Staff Writer
Despite a late comeback attempt in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Blair Blazers (5-5) could not recover from an early deficit given up to the Quince Orchard Cougars (5-3-1). Throughout the game, strong pitching by the Cougars and fielding miscues by the Blazers prevented Blair from making up ground and resulted in a 7-2 Blazer loss.

The game opened with Blair's Scott Gahart pitching to the Quince Orchard shortstop. An error allowed the runner to advance to first, but Gahart responded with a strikeout. However, the Cougars blasted two consecutive doubles to left field, scoring two runs for Quince Orchard. The Blazers escaped the inning with a double play, but the 2-0 QO lead proved too large to surmount.
In the bottom of the first, Ryan Bratton opened for the Blazers with a single. But Bratton was stranded on base as the Quince Orchard pitcher racked up three straight strikeouts. The Blazers began to get back on track in the second when Gahart tossed a scoreless inning and hit an RBI single to score first baseman Johnny Pietanza.

Quince Orchard retook control of the game in the third inning, when their first baseman scored off an RBI double by their designated hitter. When it was the Blazers' turn to bat, second baseman Zach Dunne was tagged out at home trying to advance on a groundout and QO left the inning with a 3-1 advantage. The Cougars extended their lead in the fourth as sloppy fielding by the Blazers allowed them to earn three steals in the inning, including one of home. After two Blazer strikeouts and a groundout, QO left the fourth inning with a four run lead.

Quince Orchard was dominant on the bases in the fourth inning earning seven stolen bases throughout the game. "They were getting good jumps and I was taking too long to get the ball to first," Gahart said.

The Blair and Quince Orchard pitchers traded zeroes in the fifth inning. However, in the sixth, the Blazer bats finally began to show signs of life. Although the Blazers let up another QO run on a double play, they rebounded as left fielder Henry Wiebe hit a double and scored on an RBI single by shortstop Joey Merrill.

Mistakes in the field doomed the Blazers in the top of the seventh. An attempt to pick off the QO runner at first flew past Pietanza and into right field, allowing another Cougar run to score. This left Blair down by five runs going into the last half inning.

After two singles, it appeared that the Blazers might have a chance to pull off the improbable comeback. With two outs, Wiebe launched a ball deep into right field. But it was not to be, as the Quince Orchard outfielder brought down the ball to clinch the win for the Cougars.

Although Gahart displayed solid command of his offspeed pitches, including his curveball and slider, Quince Orchard batters took advantage of his fastball throughout the game. "I was throwing my offspeed pitches low in the zone. I was getting strikes, but I may have been throwing too many strikes," he said.

After an impressive 5-2 start to their season, the Blazers have suffered three straight losses. "We need a lot more cagework and a lot more tee work," assistant coach Bryce Shemer said.

Next matchup: The Blazers look to get back on track as they face the Northwood Gladiators (0-7) at home.



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