NEWARK: The GCC baseball team was six outs away from knocking off nationally ranked Niagara County CC to advance to the NJCAA Region III championship game, but came out on the losing end of a 6-4 decision and fell to Hudson Valley CC in an elimination game to end its season on Saturday at Colburn Park in Newark.
Brandon Stephens got off to a shaky start on the mound for the Cougars, spotting Niagara a 2-0 lead after one. After a failed putout on a strikeout allowed the Thunderwolves their first baserunner of the game, Stephens allowed two hits, including a two-run double, and a walk in the inning.
GCC manufactured a run and cut the lead in half in the top of the second after Brandon Henshaw began the frame with a leadoff double. A fielding error on a ball put in play by Rodolfo Rodriguez moved Henshaw to third and put runners on the corners for Casey Guary, who laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored Henshaw and got Genesee to within 2-1.
Stephens settled down and did not allow a hit in four straight scoreless innings, retiring NCCC in order in back-to-back innings in the second and third. His day was done after five and the sophomore struck out two while allowing just the damage in the first inning.
The Cougars took the lead in the sixth after Imanuel Gonzalez reached on a one-out error in the field to get things going. Manuel Tejeda followed with a single to give GCC runners on first and second, and Henshaw delivered by driving in Gonzalez to tie the game at two. A Rodriguez groundout put runners on second and third for Guary, who hit a bloop single into right that scored two and gave Genesee a 4-2 lead.
Andrew Shapiro relieved Stephens in the sixth and set down the Thunderwolves 1-2-3 in the sixth and seventh innings, but allowed two straight batters to reach base in the bottom of the eighth before giving way to Guary, who hit a batter and gave up a double and a single, and Niagara scored four times in the inning to take back the lead for good.
Joseph DeFelice reached on an infield single in the top of the ninth, but was left stranded and GCC was forced to face elimination in the nightcap against Hudson Valley CC.
Henshaw went 3-4, scored two runs and drove in one, Tejeda was 2-4 with a run scored and DeFelice added two hits in four at bats.
Genesee was held to just three hits in the win or go home game and lost a 7-2 decision that eliminated the Cougars from regional title contention.
Starter Jacob Cross was chased in the fourth after allowing just a single run on two hits, but the bullpen allowed six more runs (three earned) during the final six innings.
Gonzalez doubled in the bottom of the first, but the Cougars did not register their next hit until the bottom of the eighth when DeFelice doubled.
Trailing by seven, Genesee loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth and scored twice off of an RBI groundout by Rodriguez and an RBI single by Guary, but came up short and HVCC advances to play Niagara County CC in the regional championship tomorrow at noon and 3:30 (if necessary).
Genesee ends the season with a 32-20 overall record.