WAPPINGERS FALLS – During the Renegades march to the New York-Penn League Championship last season, Dutchess Stadium became a place where opposing teams had the deck stacked against them. Entering Friday night’s finale against the Jamestown Jammers, it was the Renegades who had been experiencing a bad taste of home cooking. After dropping the first two games of the series, the ‘Gades had lost a season worst four in a row, including the previous six at home. But strong pitching performances from Kevin Brandt and Justin Choate powered them to a 2-1 victory to open the weekend on the right foot.
Scoreless through the first two innings, Brandt put two Jammers on base after hitting Jeff Roy and walking Michael Fransoso with two outs. Jin-De Jhang then sent a groundball back of first, but Darryl George flipped it to Brandt for the final out. James Harris led off the Renegades third with a bunt single, and moved to second base on an errant throw from third baseman Erich Weiss. A Julian Ridings sacrifice bunt moved him to third, but Harris was thrown out at the plate after Ariel Soriano grounded out to short.
The Renegades took their first lead of the series in the fifth inning off Jammers lefthander Jackson Lodge (2-1). Three straight singles by Granden Goetzman, Patrick Blair, and another bunt by Harris loaded the bases with nobody out. Ridings struck out which brought Soriano to the plate once again. This time, his groundball to short was deep in the hole and deflected into shallow left by Adam Frazier. Goetzman and Blair crossed the plate on the two-run single to give the ‘Gades a 2-0 lead.
Brandt was in line to pick up the win after tossing five scoreless innings in his first start of the season. Justin Choate pitched himself out of a jam in the sixth as Fransoso doubled to right to start things off. Jhang cut the deficit in half with an RBI single into center to make it 2-1, and Harold Ramirez singled to put runners at first and second. Edwin Espinal’s sacrifice bunt advanced the pair into scoring position, and gave the Jammers two chances to make things interesting with the tying run just 90 feet away. Choate came back with a vengeance by striking out Weiss and getting Andrew Dennis to fly out to right to end the threat.
Jamestown had one final chance in the top of the ninth inning with the score still 2-1. Weiss and Dennis singled with one out, setting up another Choate escape route with runners on base. Francisco Aponte lifted a dangerous fly ball to shallow right center that got behind the center fielder Ridings, only to end up in the glove of the right fielder Harris. With the tricky Jeff Roy at the plate and the Jammers down to their final out, Choate struck him out swinging on a high fastball to end it and seal the victory.
Brandt (2-2) racked up a season-high six strikeouts and struck out the side in the fourth. Choate earned his second four inning save and matched a season-high with six strikeouts, including the side in the seventh. Soriano’s two RBIs (18) tied him with Oscar Hernandez for the team lead and second league-wide.