Joey Cassidy rounded first and went from a dead sprint, looking for a double, into his trot to round the bases for a home run. He cocked his right arm and gave a fist pump and just held it there for a moment as he ran toward second base.
Home runs haven't come easy for Williamsport baseball this year. Cassidy's fourth-inning blast into the netting of the batting cage beyond the left-field fence was just the second this year for the Millionaires. It couldn't have come at a better time.
The homer pushed Williamsport's lead to four runs Tuesday evening at Logue Field against Bald Eagle Area and was more than enough for pitcher Gabe Rader to shut down the Eagles' offense. Williamsport won its seventh game in a row, 5-1, over Bald Eagle Area, behind Rader's seven hitter with 14 strikeouts.
"I think with this team, we don't really need (home runs)," Cassidy said. "But we'll take it."
Cassidy's homer was the cap to a five-run fourth inning which finally saw the Millionaires take advantage of the plentiful amount of baserunners it had against BEA starter Jon Romine. In the prior three innings Williamsport had eight baserunners, but scored none.
Cassidy grounded into a double play with two runners on in the first inning, Sam Bubb grounded into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded in the second, and Ian Miller grounded out to second with runners on the corners in the third inning. And seven of those baserunners for Williamsport came from either walks, hit batters or errors, but Romine found a way to wiggle out of each inning.
"We were getting guys on third almost every inning with two outs and we couldn't get anything," Cassidy said. "(Noah Esposito) got us started (in the fourth inning) and got on base and we were able to get him in because he got on before there were two outs."
The Millionaires, though, did all their damage in the inning with two outs, trailing the Eagles, 1-0. Bubb singled to left field with two outs to score Esposito. A walk to Owen Lukens set up Steven Moon for an RBI single of his own, scoring Bubb. Then Cassidy, who was hitting just .238 with seven RBIs going into Tuesday's game, jumped on a 1-0 fastball up in the zone and hit a majestic blast to left field.
The homer was his first extra-base hit for Cassidy in 55 plate appearances this year. The senior catcher, who was hitting cleanup yesterday, has five of his 10 RBIs in the last two days after having a pair in a win over Mifflinburg on Monday.
"That was difficult," Bald Eagle Area head coach Jim Gardner said. "Everyone knew that was going to be difficult to overcome, but we still want to have quality at-bats. Unfortunately, (Romine) has had a bad inning each of his last few starts. This time of the year against good pitching, you can't afford that."
The crooked number the Millionaires put on the board in the fourth might as well have been a 50 instead of a five the way Rader was throwing. After struggling through the first three innings to find his command, Rader settled in nicely in the fourth, locating his fastball on the corners with good velocity and throwing a devastating curveball the BEA offense never made an adjustment to.
Of the season-high 14 strikeouts Rader posted Tuesday, 12 of them came on the curveball, and six were looking. It was a true swing-and-miss pitch against an offense that didn't muster much of a fight after leaving the bases loaded in the third inning.
"I just had to get the feel for things. I always get loose later on," Rader said. "I was feeling better near the end. At first I was a little tired and dragging on, but then I got pumped up and started doing better."
Rader struck out multiple batters in five of his seven innings in his first complete game effort of the season. He had struck out 28 batters in 24 innings prior to striking out 14 in seven innings yesterday.
"It was we either got hits or struck out," Gardner said. "We didn't force their defense to make very many plays. We have to put the ball in play. Fourteen strikeouts is just too many for a good ballclub."
"Once Gabe finds his curveball and he can land it, he's hard to hit because it breaks really hard," Cassidy said. "The wrinkle is a different speed and it bends like crazy."
Bald Eagle Area100 000 0 - 1 7 2
Williamsport000 500 x - 5 8 0
Jon Romine and Bryan Greene. Gabe Rader and Joey Cassidy. W-Rader. L-Romine.
Top Bald Eagle Area hitters: Bryan Greene, 1-3; Logan Reese, 1-3, home run, RBI, run; Ryan Dyke, 1-2; Gage Gardner, 2-3. Top Williamsport hitters: Sam Bubb, 1-4, RBI, run; Owen Lukens, 1-2, run; Steven Moon, 1-2, RBI, run; Joey Cassidy, 1-3, home run, 3 RBIs, run; Ben Myers, 2-4; Austin Robinson, 1-2.
With runners in scoring position: Bald Eagle Area 1-6; Williamsport 3-9.
Runners left on base-in scoring position: Bald Eagle Area 7-4; Williamsport 8-6. Pitches-strikes: Bald Eagle Area, Romine 118-62. Williamsport, Rader 120-78. Batters faced-first pitch strikes: Bald Eagle Area, Romine 32-14. Williamsport, Rader 29-17.
Records: Williamsport (13-4); Bald Eagle Area (13-5).