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Collegiate baseball: Rams walk way to late-inning triumph

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WATERTOWN — The Watertown Rams found some more walk-off magic.

Chris Gaetano drew a base-loaded walk in the ninth inning to bring in Ben Wylly as Watertown rallied to defeat the Utica Brewers, 4-3, in a Perfect Game Collegiate League Baseball game Monday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

All three home victories by the Rams (4-5) have come on the final at bat, with this win being the second late-inning win over the Brewers (2-7). Watertown beat Utica, 6-5 in 10 innings, on June 9.

The Rams drew two-out walks by Wylly, who promptly stole second, and Alessandrine in the ninth inning. Santino Alteri hit a ground ball to second that was mishandled by second baseman Zach Torriente to load the bases. Gaetano then worked a full-count before Josh Garran’s pitch sailed outside for ball four.

Gaetano said that he was more patient later in the game.

“I didn’t have too much discipline my first couple of at bats,” Gaetano said. “I was able to take some pitches outside my last at bat and get the walk-off win.”

Matt Diorio clubbed a solo home run in the sixth inning, as the Rams managed only four hits against the Brewers. Starting pitcher Zander Clouse settled down after giving up an early two-run homer and went 7 1/3 innings, giving up only three runs on five hits with five strikeouts. Clouse said that he believed in his pitches to help him shake off his shaky start.

“I just trusted my pitches the rest of the game,” said Clouse, who was 1-0 with a 4.09 earned run average heading into Monday’s game. “I never lost faith in anything.”

Corey Lerche belted a two-run home in the first for Utica, while Robert Hardy went six innings and gave up two runs on four hits. At one point, Hardy retired 10 straight Watertown batters. Brewers manager Russell Jacob said Hardy made a strong start, but his pitch count prevented him from going deeper.

“His pitch count got over 12 pitches (per batter),” Jacob said. “He’s was just a little tired.”

Garran took the loss for Utica, while Jake Sale picked up the win, pitching 1 2/3 innings of relief for Watertown.

Clouse got some solid defensive help as he induced a pair double plays that snuffed out Utica rallies in the fifth and seventh. Alteri said those were critical in turning the game around.

“It’s a big momentum changer and it’s a big inning-killer for the other team,” Alteri said.

After Lerche’s homer, Clouse sat down seven Utica hitters. Watertown cut the deficit to 2-1 after Robbie Alessandrine laced an RBI-single in the fifth that plated Wylly, who doubled. Dioro’s solo blast then tied the game at two.

Watertown took a 3-2 lead in the seventh when Brandon Mikulka scored on a wild pitch by Utica’s Daniel Belmont. The Brewers then tied it up at 3 in the eighth after Cody Burton ripped an RBI-single.

The Rams head to the road for three games in two days as they travel to Amsterdam for a 6:35 p.m. game against the defending champion Mohawks, who beat Watertown 6-2 on Sunday at the Fairgrounds. The Rams then take on Albany in a doubleheader starting at 5:05 p.m.

NOTES: Watertown is 3-0 this season against Utica, with the last two wins coming by one run after an 11-1 win by the Rams on June 7 at Murrane Field in Utica. The two teams next play each other at 5:05 p.m. July 6 at the Fairgrounds. ... During the game, there were frequent updates of the United States’ 2-1 World Cup win over Ghana.

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