CRANBERRY TWP — Game 4 of the Eagle County baseball championship had a few firsts.
The game saw two lead changes and a competitive game with the previous three games being no closer than six runs.
In the end, Mars defeated Cranberry Township Friday night at North Boundary Park, 5-4, for its second straight league championship win.
“That's a heart pounder — stressful game,” Mars player/manager Brendan Malone said. “Probably aged a few years on that one.”
Greg Fredericks got the win on the mound for Mars with nine strikeouts and one walk through six innings.
“Greg was a little sore coming into the game,” Malone said. “But he's one of our better guys and we knew he'd give us as much as he could.”
Mars got on the board in the first off an error that scored Greg Stokes to take a 1-0 lead.
Then it added two more runs in the third and it seemed like Mars was going to run away with the game.
Fueled by six hits and a two-run RBI double by player/manager Bill Clinefelter, Cranberry found itself ahead 4-3 heading into the fifth.
“When you play on a real baseball field, it tends to even it up a bit,” Clinefelter said. “But it is what it is.”
Cranberry then struggled to hold on as Mars tied the game at four in the sixth.
A pinch-hit, RBI-double from Dan Berty in the top of the seventh proved to be the difference as Mars held on for the one-run victory.
“Not easy to come off the bench like that,” Malone said of Berty. “After not playing much the whole series, it was just unbelievable.”
Jeremy Iellimo led the way at the plate for Cranberry with two singles, while Jim Pasquine collected a single and a double for Mars.
Matt Gayda took the loss on the mound for Cranberry with four strikeouts and four walks through seven innings.
After 20-plus years of Eagle County ball, Clinefelter has no intention of hanging up the cleats just yet.
“I told the guys we got a good group right here,” Clinefelter said. “Next year we'll add some pieces — just look forward to coming back and doing it again.”
Looking to next season, Malone said he and the guys have just one thing on their minds.
“We're gonna go for it again, go for the three-peat,” he said.
Mars 102 001 1 — 5 8 1
Cranberry 000 400 0 — 4 7 2
W: Greg Fredericks 6IP (9K, 1BB). L: Matt Gayda 7IP (4K, 4BB).
Mars: Jim Pasquine 1B, 2B, Greg Stokes 1B
Cranberry: Jeremy Iellimo 2-1B, Brandon Pouch 1B