The Cortland Crush rebounded in a big way on Sunday after losing its two previous games.
Cortland traveled to the western division Hornell Dodgers for a doubleheader and left with a victorious sweep.
The Crush used steady starting pitching from Zach Kemp and Charlie Hammel to limit the Dodgers to a combined four runs over two games. That plus timely hitting propelled Cortland to a 3-2 win in game one and a 5-2 win in game two.
"It's tough (to go on the road and win two)," Crush catcher Kam Holland said. "This was a great team, we just worked hard and played as a family."
"The majority of the season, it's been all about offense for us," outfielder Alex Flock said. "It's important for us to maybe not hit as well as we have been and then still win a game."
With the pair of wins, the Crush now have a three-point lead over the Syracuse Salt Cats for first place in the east division entering the final week of the regular season.
The Crush did just enough in the doubleheader opener to take the game from Hornell.
Cortland starter Kemp got off to a shaky start. Kemp allowed five hits and run through the first two innings.
Hornell scored on Matthew Martinez's ground-out, bringing home Josh Laurie to make it 1-0.
However, Kemp righted the ship and allowed no runs over his next three innings of work to allow the Crush to get back in the game. Kemp finished with five innings pitched, allowed one earned run on nine hits a struck out four.
"I just need to settle in and start throwing strikes," Kemp said. "Really just trying to work my fastball and curveball."
The Crush struck for a pair of runs in the top of the third inning to take the lead. Jack Lynch singled to lead-off the frame and Stephen Bennett walked to put runners on.
Flock then smacked a single to right field that scored both Lynch and Bennett to make it 2-1.
"I was getting pitched pretty early in the count with off-speeds," Flock said. "I was able to go the other way pretty well today." Drew Boli added another run in the top of the fourth, hitting a single to bring Sean O’Malley home and make it 3-1.
The Dodgers cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth inning on Laurie's RBI single.
The Crush bullpen though would win the game for the Crush. Jonathan Treisler pitched a perfect six inning, and Cregg Scherrer allowed no runs in the seventh to pick of the save.
The Dodgers out hit the Crush, nine hits to five, but the Crush utilized three walks and two hit-by-pitches to edge Hornell.
Once again, the Crush and Dodgers played a close one.
Hornell tied the game up at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, erasing an early Crush lead. Kam Holland, though, quickly gave the Crush the lead back.
After a Hayden Houts single and a Boli walk, Holland smacked a base hit that brought both runners home and made it 4-2 Crush.
"I was just thinking 'got to get the runners in', he started me off with a first pitch slider and I swung at it, second one he left it up and I stayed inside of it and hit the gap and got the runners in," Holland said.
"It felt amazing. I was in a little bit of a slump, it felt great to get my swing back to where it was, and it felt great to be a team player and get my team back on top."
For the second straight game the Crush pitching limited the Hornell offense and kept the team in the game. Hammel started a went four and two-thirds innings, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out five.
Ben Mack, Jacob Simon and Jimmy Tatum pitched the final two and a third innings, allowing only one run and no hits combined.
Cortland scored first on a suicide-squeeze bunt by Boli that scored Anthony Cieszko. Catcher's interference was then called and that allowed Nick Pastore to score and make it 2-0.
Pastore made it 5-2 in the seventh inning, stealing home on a double steal with Houts taking second.
The Crush return home on tonight, as the team hosts the Syracuse Spartans.
The Spartan are the only team in the east that the Crush have a losing record against (3-4). First pitch is at 6 pm at Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex.
"I think we've been the best team in the league for a good part of the year," Flock said. "Just can't do anything we haven't been doing, don't get too big, don't get too arrogant and I think we can go a long way."