Niagara Gazette

June 24, 2013

Base Paths: A Power-ful lesson in not giving up

By DOUG SMITH
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Only one Niagara Power batter zeroed the hit column in Saturday night’s endurathon vs. Geneva at Sal Maglie Stadium. That would be the beleaguered Alex Lagos.

And only one batter was virtually imprinted into the Barber Shop infield in the mosh celebrating his game-winning RBI. That, too, would be Alex Lagos, as the Bolts, seemingly crushed in both spirit and intertia, overcame a 6-3 deficit to outlast the Geneva Red Wings, 8-7.

What happened Saturday night defines how the Niagara Power and manager Josh Rebandt play the game a bit differently from most others.

“Pinch hit” buzzed through the pressbox as Lagos stepped in, bases loaded, one out, score tied. Four potential subs had averages higher than Alex’s .165, though there’d been encouraging signs in his eighth-inning sacrifice fly.

But it is Rebandt’s style to let players craft their own escape from under the bus. Had Lagos had a decent day, and had the situation called for a particular skill (i.e., righty-lefty, or bunt specialist), Rebandt might have been inclined to substitute, as he had earlier in the inning. But Alex Lagos, candidate for redemption, was on his own.

The first two serves sailed wide. A strike followed, another ball. Three-and-one now as most of the Job-patient crowd rose and rooted. The next pitch veered in; even with a plate blue whose calls might be generously described as suspenseful, Lagos let it pass. Ball four. Illuminated by a Supermoon the shade of a Syracuse shirt, pandemonium prevailed.

It had been the kind of baseball night that not even Base Paths can defend, endless long counts, pickoff throws and two-strike fouls. The game consumed nearly four hours, more time, even, than Olean’s 16-15 run past Wellsville on Friday. At one point, Bolt Scott Gillespie fouled off enough payoff pitches to endanger his eligibility.

Dirty little secret: There was a pressbox pool as to how many errors the Power would commit, there having been eight (the golfer’s dreaded “snowman”) the night before. Caveat: They also had 18 assists, testimony to a particularly active game. Saturday, though, but a single bobble, and it was Lagos himself whose terrific, alert, back-handed grab-and-throw at short had halted the rally that brought Geneva even.

And so the Power left the game 7-and-6 with but 1 ½ games separating second place from tenth. The playoff spots are likeliest to go to the teams whose bullpens throw strikes, and so far, that’s not Niagara. Fifteen strolled over the weekend; ten Tuesday at Syracuse.

After a game that seemed as if it would never end, two-thirds of the season remains, and even if the Power’s hands aren’t always in the right place, their hearts sure are.

Doug Smith offers is thoughts on baseball every Monday with Base Paths. Send him an email at pollyndoug@hotmail.com

Doug Smith offers is thoughts on baseball every Monday with Base Paths. Send him an email at pollyndoug@hotmail.com