Niagara Gazette — It took a bizarre series of errors to give the Niagara Power their game-tying and go-ahead runs. It then took a pitching effort with drama worthy of a big league game to make that lead stand.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Power closer Zach Verner twice got himself out of 3-0 holes by hurling strikeouts that sealed Niagara’s 2-1 win over the Syracuse Salt Cats in the Power’s home opener Thursday night at Sal Maglie Stadium.
With the win, the Power improved to 2-2 in the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Verner picked up his first save of the season while Niagara starter Perry Turner, a late addition to the roster from Jones County Community College in Mississippi, got the win in his first start.
“Verner’s the guy that usually attacks the strike zone right out of the gate,” said Power head coach Josh Rebandt. “Tonight he struggled a little bit but he found himself a way to win. He competed for us and that’s what a closer needs to do if they don’t have their best stuff on a certain day.”
Even Verner, a sophomore at John Carroll University, admitted he was not his sharpest. After giving up a walk, a single and then an intentional walk to load up the bases with one out, he twice found himself one bad pitch away from walking the game-tying run home. Twice, he got the hitters to swing into full counts and then swing again for strike three.
He got a talk from his teammates midway through that jam but he also pointed to some written notes on his own glove as a source of inspiration.
“In a game, when I’m not throwing my best and I’m getting behind batters I have a couple of things on my glove that I look at,” Verner said. “One is from my grandmother, who has cancer, who says ‘dream big.’ The other is Matthew 19:26. It’s all just a reminder it’s in God’s hands.”