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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 7, 2009

Church sharp on the mound in Blackbirds’ win over Watervliet 

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Throwing 70 out of 98 pitches for strikes will win you a game anytime.

Senior Landon Church improved his record to 3-0 with a five-hit complete game for Voorheesville in its 6-to-1 win over Watervliet at home on Monday. The team improved its record to 7-7.

“I felt really good today because I had faith in my defense,” said a surprised Church after The Enterprise told him he threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes. “I’m constantly working ahead.”

“You’re not going to lose if you throw that many strikes,” said Head Coach Kyle Turski. “Church has been on all year long, he’s a work horse. Today marks his fourth complete game of the season. He doesn’t quit.”

Church already had a 3-to-0 lead to work with when he took the hill in the second inning.

Jake Nussbaum got on base in the first inning with a single. Ryan Duncan brought Nussbaum home with a single. Mike Chiseri followed with a single that added another run and Joe Berschwinger put the three spot up for the Blackbirds with a sacrifice fly.

“We haven’t been getting on top early, so those three runs gave us control,” Turski said. “The motto this year is: Step Up. They did just that today.”

At the top of the second inning, Wayne Haupt got on base for the Cannoneers when Nico Church couldn’t handle bounce. Landon Church gave up a single to Dylan Brown, but nothing came of it.

Landon Church still had a three-run lead in the third. He walked Tom Ebenhock and Ebenhock got to second base on a bad pitch. Church hit Kevin Winterbourne on the arm and runners were on the corners with two outs. Haupt struck out looking to end the threat.

Church gave up his only run in the fourth inning off a sacrifice fly to left field by Ryan Manning. Watervliet hit a couple of singles, one past a diving Berschwinger at third base. Voorheesville had the lead, 3-1.

“If my team keeps playing like this then we’ll be in the playoffs,” said Turski. “Playing in the Colonial Council only makes us a better team. It’s rare for us to not be in games late. Every game has been close.”

Runs that count

Duncan and Chiseri got the Blackbirds off to a slow start in the fourth with two quick outs. An error by Burns on a Berschwinger grounder to short kept the inning alive. Ryan Gatt hit a fly ball that dropped right in front of the diving left fielder and Berschwinger made it all the way home from first base. Gatt made it to third on the throw to home and Voorheesville had a 4-to-1 lead.

Church pitched a solid fifth inning, throwing all strikes and no balls. “The batters were jumping on my fastball, so I threw some off-speed stuff to keep them guessing,” he said.

The bottom of the fifth inning started with Nick Blow getting hit by a pitch. Nussbaum drove a single through the infield gap and Blow headed to third. Caleb Gleason threw a bad pitch for the Cannoneers and Blow scored the fifth Blackbird run.

The lead was increased to 6 to 1 when Nussbaum was driven in by a Berschwinger single. Haupt made a leaping catch at first base to end the inning.

Church walked Ray Brown to start the sixth and Nico Church, Landon’s little brother, tried to rush a double play at short, but threw it away. Landon Church hit Manning on the arm and the bases were loaded with one out.

Once again, the pitching and defense by Voorheesville would save the day. Church struck out Ebenhock and Nico Church made an incredible play on a pop-up to left field to end the scare by Watervliet. Nico Church rose over an incoming Nussbaum to snag the ball.

“My brother was pitching a great game, so I couldn’t let that ball drop,” said Nico Church after the game. “I called it at the last second and Nussbaum backed off. It was either him or me.”

“A game is never over early, but that play by Nico put the win in perspective,” said Turski.

Voorheesville moved to 3-5 in the Colonial and Watervliet dropped to 5-5. Berschwinger had two runs batted in and Duncan, Chiseri, and Gatt each had one run batted in. Nussbaum went 2 for 4 on his birthday.

“This is a pretty great team to be a part of because we’re all friends,” Turski said. “I couldn’t stop smiling after the game because everyone’s got such good spirits, win or lose.”

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