Owls rally past SwampDogs

Jul. 26, 2014 @ 01:37 PM

The Forest City Owls were looking to break out of their slump, having lost six of their last seven contests coming into Friday’s game with Fayetteville. 

They did just that, rallying for a 6-3 win which also kept them alive in the hunt for a CPL playoff berth.

“Finally,“ said Owl’s manager Andrew Ciencin. “It feels good just to get a win. I’m not really worried about the standings or the playoffs right now. We just needed this win and we need the one tomorrow (Saturday) at Gastonia.”

The big inning for the Owls came in the seventh inning as they plated three runs to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead. 

Danny Sheehan came through with go-ahead two-run single but the Swampdog defense also lent a helping hand as two errors in the frame put the runners on base. As a result, all three runs were unearned as were four of the six runs Forest City scored on the night.

“That’s been the story of our season,” said Fayetteville, and former Forest City manager, David Tufo. “We play well and then we have some errors. That’s exactly what happened tonight.”

Fayetteville threatened in the second inning as Norm Donkin led off the frame by dumping a single in right field. He promptly stole second and third and scored on an RBI single by Kameron Stewart. Later in the frame, Stewart scored on a suicide squeeze to make the tally 2-0. The damage could have been worse had not the Owls battery of Orlando Raso and Zach Cerbo combined for a 1-2 caught stealing to end the inning.

The Owls answered with a single run in the bottom of the third. Steven Pallares reached on a single to lead off the inning and took two bases on a Danny Sheehan groundout. Pallares then scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit to 2-1.

The Swampdogs got that run back in their next at bat as Jacob Whiting’s fielder’s  choice increased the lead to lead to 3-1  That seemed to be more than enough for Fayetteville starter Jordy Farthing. He limited the Owls to one run on four hits, striking out four through his first five innings of work.

“Their starter threw a great game,” Ciencin said. “Every time we adjusted to him, he made adjustments also. We finally got to him a little bit in that seventh inning.”

Forest City also got to Farthing in the sixth. Sheehan led off with a single and moved to third on a throwing error by Farthing. Sheehan scored in an unusual play as Hunter Bryant struck out but Sheehan scored on the throw to first. Forest City then proceeded to put two more runners on base but failed to score any more runs, keeping the tally at 3-2.

The Owls took their first lead of the game in the seventh. Sheehan came through again, this time with a two run single. Devin Wensel followed with a RBI single of his own as the Owls lead increased  to 5-3.

“He (Farthing) was throwing his slider a lot starting in the fifth,” Sheehan said. “I was looking for it and rolled a single up the middle.”

Relief pitchers Eric Birkland and Mitch Warner worked a scoreless eighth inning and Zach Cerbo scored  an insurance run  in the bottom half to put the Owls up 6-3.

Brock Goodling came on in the ninth and earned his eighth save of the season to nail down the 6-3 win.

Even with the loss, Tufo said he enjoyed his return to Forest City.

“It was nice to come back and see all the familiar faces,” he said. “I had people from the crowd come up and say some nice things to me. It was a little strange sitting in the other dugout, though.”

NOTES: Forest City held a moment of silence for longtime fan George Ledford who passed away recently. The 2014  state champion softball team from East Rutherford was honored before the game with coach Laura Hopper throwing out the first pitch.