With each team waiting at least six days to play, Monday’s Johnstown Collegiate Baseball League matchup between defending champion Martella’s Pharmacy and Ophthalmic Associates figured to be low scoring. Both right-handed pitchers – Martella’s Omar Ward and Opthalmic’s Luke Dividock – held up their end of the bargain in what became a tight pitchers' duel throughout.
Despite getting outhit 6-4, Ophthalmic was more resourceful on offense. Corey Cavalier scored on a wild pitch in the fifth inning to provide Dividock just enough run support as third-place Ophthalmic edged second-place Martella’s 2-1 in the first game of a doubleheader at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
“Any game against Martella’s is a big game. To get a win out of that, it was huge,” said Dividock, who scattered six hits in the complete-game victory.
“That puts us at 5-6 now, way better than where we were at last year. It was just a great all-around team win.”
Dividock needed 98 pitches to finish seven frames. The Portage graduate struck out five batters and walked three, while holding Martella’s to just a 2-for-12 clip with runners in scoring position. Leaving three runners stranded in the first turned out to be a harbinger of things to come for Martella’s.
“We left a total of eight guys on base, five in scoring position. You’re just not going to win games that way,” Martella’s manager Jesse Cooper said. “We played last Monday, so I think with that big layover, our intensity and energy level was pretty low today. That was evident from the very beginning.”
Martella’s, the first Johnstown entry to win the AAABA Tournament last August, provided a threat in the top of the first inning. Adam Cecere was hit by the first pitch of the game. After stealing second base, Cecere came home on Jonny Kutchman’s RBI single to right. With the bases loaded and one out, Dividock escaped further damage with a strikeout and flyout.
“That inning was huge,” said Dividock, who needed 47 pitches just to get through the first two frames. “They made me work a lot in the first and second innings. It was a grind getting through that, but once I got through that, it was pretty smooth sailing through the rest.”
Last week, Ophthalmic dropped two extra-inning games to the top two JCBL teams. Monday provided a confidence lift to the squad, which ended a stretch of five off days with a key win.
“After last week going 11 innings with them (Martella’s) and 9 with Paul Carpenter, it was big just to come out on top,” Ophthalmic manager Ken Ashbrook said. “Dock threw a hell of a game for us. He’s been throwing well all year.
“Just coming off from that layover, we’ve been so close so far this year. I’ve been telling the guys, ‘It’s right there, we’re going to go over the top here soon.’ Today, we did it.”
Dividock frequently navigated traffic on the bases by limiting hard contact.
“I was just trying to hit the corners with my fastball and stay low in the zone,” Dividock said. “I had some guys swinging through that. My curveball was a little off today. My changeup was working a little bit, too. It worked pretty well today.”
Dividock compiled 64 strikes and was able to entice Martella’s batters to chase out of the zone at times.
“Luke did a good job of keeping us off balance throughout the game,” Cooper said. “Kudos to him. But our guys looked a little too anxious and weren’t keeping their hands back. They were swinging at pitches they shouldn’t have been, especially late in counts that could have been balls. If we let some of those go, it’s going to change the game for us.”
Cavalier and Chasen Claus each produced two hits to combine for all of OA’s knocks. Cavalier led off the third with a single, and scored from second on a fielding error by the third baseman to tie the game at 1.
In the fifth, Cavalier once again started it off with a single to right.
After a walk, both runners moved up on Ty Bodenschatz’s sacrifice bunt. Cavalier came home on a wild pitch to lead 2-1.
“We try to bunt guys over when they’re on,” Ashbrook said. “We’re a scrappy team.”
Martella’s Pharmacy (7-4) had a chance with the tying run at third base in the seventh, but right fielder Kyler Swires made a running catch.
Luke Hudson and Jack Oberdorf both had two hits for Martella’s.
Ward was the hard-luck losing pitcher. Last year’s league MVP only allowed one earned run and finished with eight punchouts, which included four straight between the first and second innings.
“So far this year, that’s been the most fluent and smooth he’s been throughout an entire duration of the game,” Cooper said of Ward. “I thought he pitched good enough to win, but I mean once again when you’re in those close games, anything can happen.”