Ottawa, ON – The Ottawa Champions had to come from behind twice on Sunday afternoon, but in the end, the Champions downed Sussex County in the series finale. Ottawa erased a six-run Miners lead and a two-run Miners lead, en route to a 9-8 victory and a series sweep at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park.
Sussex County (0-3) came out swinging in the second inning. The Miners plated five runs on five hits against Ottawa (3-0) starter Drew Granier. One inning later, Ryan Pineda (pictured) crossed the plate on a wild pitch to give Sussex County an early 6-0 lead.
The Champions came back quickly, however. After a Sebastien Boucher RBI single in the third made the score 6-1, Ottawa stormed back with five runs in the fourth inning against Miners starter Matt Branham. Mike Schwartz delivered the big blow with a three-run double that tied the game at 6-6.
Despite the setback, the Miners rallied back to re-take the lead. With a runner on and two outs, Johnny Bladel ripped a double off the left field wall to score Kenny Bryant with the go-ahead run. Devin Thaut then followed suit with a single up the middle that scored Bladel to give Sussex County an 8-6 lead.
As they did all afternoon, though, the Champions answered. Trailing by two in the seventh, Chris Winder delivered a two out single to bring rookie Matt Tenaglia to the plate. In his second professional game, Tenaglia drove a pitch from Miners reliever Andrew Aizenstadt over the right field wall. The game-tying home run was the first long ball of Tenaglia’s career and the first in Ottawa Champions history.
Ottawa had not held a lead all afternoon, but the Champs got their shot in the eighth. Schwartz led off the inning with a single against Sussex County left-hander Joe Testa and with one out and the game tied, Jon Talley came to the plate.
Talley hit a deep fly ball to left-center that sent Miners centerfielder Reggie Abercrombie back to the track. Abercrombie ran to the spot and reached up, but the ball glanced off of his glove and bounced to the wall. Schwartz scored all the way from first with the go-ahead run, as Ottawa took a 9-8 lead.
Sussex County put the tying run on base in the ninth and nearly came back. With one out and Bladel on first, Abercrombie hit a high and deep fly ball to straightaway left field. Schwartz went back to the wall and, with his back against the wall, had just enough room to make the catch. Ray Sadler then hit a screaming line drive right at Schwartz for the game’s final out.
Joshua Blanco earned the win in his first professional game since 2011. Blanco (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings in relief and struck out one. Testa (0-1) took the tough-luck loss for the Miners. He allowed the go-ahead run (unearned) in one inning of work. The lefty surrendered one hit and struck out two. Nick Purdy (1) picked up the save.
The Miners come home on Monday night for their home opener against the New Jersey Jackals. RHP Jamie Walczak is scheduled to pitch for Sussex County against Jackals LHP Isaac Pavlik. First pitch is at 7:05 PM and the gates to Skylands Stadium open at 5:30 PM with a special pre-game concert outside the main gates by The B-Street Band. A Memorial Day Tribute will precede the game and a postgame fireworks show will follow the final out.