Thompson’s go-ahead squeeze powers Oswego baseball to win over Mexico

Oswego’s Billy Waterbury (11) dives to catch a fly ball during the Bucs’ 7-5 win over Mexico on Friday.

OSWEGO — The Oswego varsity baseball team survived a back-and-forth affair with Mexico on Friday, taking the lead on Jeff Thompson’s safety squeeze in the top of the seventh and holding on for an eventual 7-5 win.

Oswego head coach John Finch said the Bucs’ experience in close games this year helped give the team confidence in Friday’s tight contest.

“The fact that we’ve been in these close games, I think there is a confidence with our pitchers and our defense,” said Finch. “Now, hopefully the bats are starting to figure it out ... I think we were a little more aggressive and had a little more, I refer to it as, ‘want to’. It seemed like there was a little bit more of that today, and there’s some results to show for it too.”

Mexico took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, when Dawson Cory hit a ground ball that allowed Johnathan Greeno to score from first. But the Bucs were able to tie the score in the third, thanks to some heads-up baserunning by freshman Tom Kirwan.

With Kirwan at third and one out, Billy Waterbury popped out in foul territory near the first base dugout. With the pitcher and catcher both converging to make the play, home plate was unoccupied, and Kirwan tagged up before scoring to tie the game.

“That’s just a really, really heady play on somebody who is ahead of his years in terms of thinking the game,” Finch said. “That was a great read. … That was kind of like a little jump-start for the dugout too.”

The Tigers immediately got the run back, however, with an RBI single from Evan Lenhart giving Mexico a 2-1 lead in the bottom half of the inning.

But the Bucs responded, plating a pair in the fourth inning to take the lead. Oswego starting pitcher Andrew Paura helped himself, driving in Preston Norfleet with an RBI single, tying the game. Two batters later, Kirwan ripped a base hit into the outfield, scoring Paura to give the Bucs a 3-2 lead.

The lead was pushed to two runs in the fifth after an error allowed Norfleet to score, and another RBI single by Paura gave the Bucs a 5-2 lead.

Mexico head coach Tyler Stever said the Tigers struggled defensively, which he said led to several Oswego runs.

“Obviously, we were hoping we would’ve made the routine plays,” said Stever. “We just weren’t making plays. … Just throwing the ball around, making silly mistakes.”

The Tigers’ head coach also offered praise for starter Connor Dubois, who Stever noted had to record several extra outs after defensive miscues.

“It’s kind of tough to be successful when that’s the situation, but he kept battling,” said Stever. “He gives us 110% every time, so that’s all we can ask.”

Mexico wasn’t done yet, however. The first three batters all reached base in the sixth, and a walk to Adam Pluff drove in a run, cutting the lead to two. That spelled the end of the day on the mound for Paura, but early in the next at-bat, a pitch from Matt Krul got to the backstop, allowing another run to score.

Pluff eventually advanced to third, and an RBI fielder’s choice from Jacob Poissant drove home the left fielder, tying the game at five. 

Stever said it was encouraging to see the Tigers show some late life and rally to tie the score.

“The guys, again, this was a big game for them, so they had a lot of life,” Stever said. “They didn’t really quit, so that’s a big feather in the cap that they wanted to battle back late in the game.”

Krul got a strikeout to end the inning, and followed up by giving the Bucs a big spark in the seventh. With one out, the junior laced a double into the left-center gap, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position. He advanced to third on a single by Norfleet, and the next batter, Thompson, dropped a perfect bunt down the first-base line, allowing Krul to score on the safety squeeze.

“Jeff’s a pretty good bunter, and it’s just a way to take advantage of where they were playing defensively, too,” said Finch of the squeeze. “It seemed to surprise them a little bit.”

Already with a 6-5 lead, Oswego still had more life offensively. A pickoff attempt at third got away and into left, allowing Norfleet to advance home and extending the lead to two.

Krul got a flyout and a strikeout to start the bottom half of the seventh, and worked around a two-out single from Greeno, getting a foul pop-up to end the game and seal a 7-5 win for the Bucs.

Finch said the Bucs played with more “intent” in the win than they had in previous games. Oswego had lost consecutive contests to Jamesville-DeWitt before Friday’s victory.

“We’re getting really well-pitched games, so when you have that opportunity, you’ve just got to be a little bit more assertive at the plate and give yourself more opportunities,” said Finch. “Mexico, they played hard. They’re a scrappy team. (Dubois) did a nice job.”

Paura was 3-3 at the plate with two RBIs for Oswego, while Kirwan was 1-4 with an RBI. Norfleet went 2-4, Waterbury and Thompson each had RBIs, while Brett Harriott, Krul, and Owen Sincavage all added base hits.

Paura threw five innings on the mound, allowing five runs. He struck out nine batters and walked one. Krul threw the final two innings, earning the win in relief.

Poissant went 2-4 with an RBI for Mexico, with Cory going 1-4 with an RBI. Lenhart added an RBI single, while Johnathan Greeno added a base hit.

Dubois threw 6.1 innings, allowing six runs while striking out 10 batters. Evan Caroccio recorded the final two outs for the Tigers, allowing a run.

Oswego (5-5) hosted Central Square on Monday, in a game that ended after press time, while Mexico (2-7) will play at Jordan-Elbridge at 4:30 p.m. today.

“We’ve got two away games next week, and then we’ve got a stretch of seven home games,” Stever said. “We’re just excited to get after it. ... We’re really hoping to take both of those and then go into that home stretch looking to make a run at sectionals.”

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