By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, NY — Getting something out of nothing the Monroe Community College Tribunes rallied to take two in WNYAC play, Tuesday afternoon.
Tommy LaCongo scampered home with the winning run as Monroe swept the Genesee Community College Cougars (4-3/7-6) in dramatic fashion.
LaCongo scored with one out in the final at bat as Monroe erased a three-run deficit with a late-inning rally.
“Feeling a little pumped up right now,” the sophomore catcher said. “Those were big wins right there.”
Hunter Merrill beat out a safety squeeze bunt in the eighth to bring his teammate home from third with the game-winner.
“I knew he was going to throw a fastball first pitch,” Merrill explained. “He’s a fastball pitcher. I was assuming he was going to throw it. It wasn’t the best bunt, but it worked out.”
LaCongo led the inning and reached when a swinging third strike in the turf went to the backstop.
“I’m a catcher, so I know those are hard balls to block,” the sophomore said. “I saw it get away from the catcher so I just busted down to first base.”
Matt Brooks put runners on the corners when he delivered a hit-and-run single through the right side of the infield.
“I had the sac bunt on at first,” Brooks stated. “I missed one bunt that was a little outside. I just thought get the ball on the ground. I pulled it through first and second base and set it up.”
Merrill delivered on the chance.
“I went up there thinking that (third-base coach, Tony) Fuller was going to give me that because we did it earlier in the game,” Merrill commented. “He knows I’m comfortable bunting in those types of situations.”
Zach Vennaro came out of the bullpen and hurled three scoreless innings for the win. The 6-5 freshman right-hander struck out two and did not allow a hit.
“Zach coming out of the pen is starting to evolve into a good place for him right now,” Monroe head coach Dave Brust said. “He’s getting more comfortable and getting used to pitching in tougher situations. The bottom line is he is throwing strikes. He’s throwing hard enough where if he’s throwing strikes, he’s a tough guy out there.”
The freshman hurler held the Genesee bats in check long enough for Monroe’s offense to gain traction.
“I was really focused on throwing first-pitch strikes,” Vennaro said. “I know our hitters can deliver. They all can go out there whatever the score is and rake.”
After leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and sixth, Monroe pushed across three in the seventh to tie the score, and LaCongo ignited the rally with a leadoff dinger.
“I just knew it would pump up my team,” LaCongo stated. “Came in the dugout yelling and screaming (between innings).
After missing badly on the first strike of the bat, the right-handed batter drilled a shot over the left fence in left field.
“I stepped out of the box and looked at my focal point, the foul pole. I took a deep breath and wiped off that swing. I moved up in the box. He threw me a changeup, so it worked perfectly. Sat on it and just drove it. I knew it was gone as soon as it hit my bat.”
Brooks followed with a single up the middle and moved to third when an errant pickoff attempt caromed off the fence in foul territory. Merrill made it a one-run game at 6-5 with his first safety squeeze of the day.
“Hunter did a lot of little things,” Brust said. “That’s his strength, the ability to handle the bat in tough situations. Guys know he can bunt. Ultimately, that’s going to blow up some defenses, and it did today. It worked for us.”
“We hung around,” Brust said of the comeback. “We bunted well. We ran the bases. Guys had some big base hits.”
Brooks preserved the lead with a spectacular grab in the ninth as Genesee’s John Warne sent a drive into the alley in right center. Brooks came from right and reached across his body with a leaping stab to take away extra bases.
“I had a great jump on it,” Brooks said. “Coach (Tony) Fuller moved me in before. It was good positioning. I had a good bead, dove and made the catch.”
Monroe improved to 17-13 and more importantly 4-2 in conference play. The win was the sixth straight and ninth in the last ten games.
“That was huge for us,” Merrill said. “Throughout the whole game everyone was saying it’s a nine-inning game. We have to stick through it the whole time. We never gave up. That’s something that the sophomores are drilling into the freshmen. We’re capable of doing that. Seeing us do that really gives us the confidence for the rest of the year.”
Mike DiStefano went the distance in the opener for the win. The right-hander struck out three, walked none and allowed three hits.
Monroe tallied two in the third and two in the fifth for the win.
Angel Diaz plated Segar and Hopkins with a one-out triple in the third. Diaz sparked the fifth with a one-out base hit. LaCongo tripled, and Brooks singled him home for a 4-2 advantage.
DiStefano improved to 2-1 on the season.
David Vaccaro collected three hits and a walk on the afternoon. The Monroe shortstop turned in several spectacular plays with the glove.
Brooks went 3-for-4 with four walks, three runs and one RBI.
LaCongo scored three times and drove in two.
Segar had three hits, a walk, two runs and an RBI.
Merrill had three hits.
Jeremie Gonzalez started and went 6.2 for GCC in the nightcap. The left-hander fanned 10 and walked four. He also went 2-for-5 at the plate with three RBI including a two-out single in the fourth which scored a pair to give the Cougars a 4-2 lead.
Warne had three hits for GCC including a solo shot in the opener. He also threw out a pair of would-be base stealers.
GCC is 6-11 and 0-6 in the conference.
MCC travels to Mercyhurst NE on Thursday to take on the Saints in a pivotal conference doubleheader. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.