WATERTOWN — The Watertown Rapids managed to generate some drama in the late innings Thursday night.
Unfortunately, the Rapids came up just short in being dealt yet another loss at home.
Watertown mounted a rally bid by scoring three runs in the final two innings, including one in the ninth, but left the bases loaded in a 6-5 loss to the Elmira Pioneers in a Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League game at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
Vinny DeRubeis slugged a pair of home runs, including a two-run shot in the eighth inning, to pace the Rapids (9-11).
Then down to their last strike in the bottom of the ninth, Danny DiMarzo walked and, after Nate Chase singled, DiMarzo scored on Emil Matti’s single to center field.
Derek Kasperzyk then walked to load the bases and again down to Watertown’s last strike, James Krick worked the count to 3-2 before flying out to left field to end the game.
“It was a tough one,” DeRubeis said. “We were coming back in the last couple innings, and we were right there with the bases loaded — and one hit away — we could have won the game. So that’s tough to swallow.”
“I just think we didn’t play our best all night,” Watertown coach Mike Wood said. “There were a couple errors again and we kind of just let things get out of hand. But before we knew it we were back in the game in the ninth inning.”
The Rapids, who slipped to two games under .500 for the first time this season, were dealt their third straight loss and their eighth setback in the past 10 games.
“As far as getting wins, we’ve been on a little bit of a slide,” said DeRubeis, a Turnbull, Conn., native who attends the University of Bridgeport. “But we’re all showing up and we’re ready to go. Today we felt great, we put the ball in play and had a lot of base runners — we just didn’t get those guys in.”
Watertown also lost its sixth consecutive game at home, with its last win at the Fairgrounds coming on June 12 against Adirondack.
“We have great fight, that’s what I tell them,” Wood said. “The way they keep going, they’re a resilient group, they’re relentless — we’re not really out of too many ball games. Which is fun, it’s fun to have a team like that, but we’re just kind of searching for one guy to come through for us.”
Despite giving up two runs in the first inning, with each of them unearned, Elmira starter Noah Rubino (Siena College) settled down, pitching five innings to earn the win.
“He battled and he didn’t have his best stuff today,” Elmira coach Dave Burch said of Rubino. “I continue to talk to these guys about pitching without their best stuff, but he battled and really came through for us today.”
The Rapids led 2-0 in the first as Kasperzyk singled and then stole both second and third base, scoring as he sped home when the ball got away from the third baseman.
DeRubeis followed by cranking a 3-1 pitch over the left-field wall for a solo home run.
“I had a good round of (batting practice) and I was seeing the ball well today,” said DeRubeis, who reached base in all four trips to the plate, including a single in the sixth and a walk. “I felt good up there up there, so hopefully I can keep that going.”
Elmira responded by scoring the next six runs to take control — sparked by Garrett Schultz’s RBI double in the third.
The Pioneers took a 3-2 advantage in the fifth as Schultz hit a leadoff single and Nathan Peng lofted a two-run home run that just cleared the wall in left.
Elmira scored three runs to build a 6-2 lead in the seventh as second baseman Mason Ruhlman smacked the first pitch of the inning over the right-center field wall. After Nathan Berg reached on an infield error, he scored on catcher Bryce Moskiewicz’s double to center and Jeff Mejia followed with a two-out RBI single.
Berg moved over from shortstop to pitch the ninth, escaping the bases-loaded jam to record his third save.
Lefty starter Greg Tobin took the loss for Watertown, allowing three runs in five innings, as he walked four and struck out six.
“We’re almost a full month in and now we sit two games below .500, which is tough,” Wood said. “But I think this team can easily rattle off three or four wins in a row just as quickly.”
The third-place Rapids, who sit four games out of first place in the West Division, now lead Elmira (8-12) by only one game in the division, and last-place Adirondack and Newark by two games. The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs.
“The Elmiras, the Newarks, the Adirondacks, the Uticas, those are the games we have to win,” Wood said.
“Honestly, I think we have a lot of talent here and we’re a very close group of guys,” DeRubeis said. “And I think one win away we’re going to turn it around and get back on a winning streak, I’m confident about that.”
The Pioneers have now won five of their past six games, including a 7-5 win at Watertown last Friday.
“We’re buying into it and having some success, so it’s fun to see from the dugout,” Burch added.
The Rapids will attempt to bounce back as they play at Newark at 7:05 tonight before hosting West Division leader Geneva at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
n NOTES: DeRubeis’ two home runs were his first of the season and he leads the Rapids in RBI (10). ... Watertown lost outfielder and designated hitter Evan Harold to a season-ending injury and outfielder Tony Socci is sidelined because of injury. ... The Rapids next play Elmira at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday at Watertown.