The game settled into a pitching duel early on. Pitching for the away team, Todd Mesick kept Family Danz off-balance, retiring the first six batters in order. Mesick needed only 18 pitches to escape the first two frames, 14 of them strikes.
Tom Danz was also able to shut down his opponents. Starting for Family Danz, the righty got into a bit of trouble early on, allowing a leadoff single to Mesick and walking catcher Billy Piskutz. But he recovered and struck out the side to escape the jam. Danz was much less efficient than his counterpart, throwing more balls than strikes and needing 55 pitches to get through three innings, but he faced the minimum in the second and third and finished with five strikeouts.
Mesick took his no-hit bid into the third inning, but did not get any farther. Leading off the inning, Jay Tuczynski took the first offering into deep right field for a stand-up double. Mesick was not rattled, however, recovering to retire the next three batters.
The scoring drought was finally broken in the fourth. Tuczynski came on to pitch for Family Danz, and pegged right fielder Chris Ryan with his first pitch. After a strikeout, Mesick switched places with Ryan on a fielder's choice, and it looked like the home team might escape with no damage. But Piskutz drilled a double to left field, allowing Mesick to score all the way from first with the game's first run.
Each team produced some offense in the fifth, but neither could push a run across. First Niagara had two on and nobody out after a leadoff single by Scott Holzhauer and a walk by Julio Guity, but Tuczynski retired three consecutive batters to get out of the jam. In their half of the inning, Family Danz roped back-to-back singles to left field off reliever Tom Amell, who had struck out the side in the previous inning. With two outs, Mark Baker hit another line drive to left, but this one would not drop, allowing Amell to get out of the jam unscathed.
First Niagara added to its lead in the sixth inning, but some timely defense from Family Danz kept the game close. Joe Ciccarelli and Christopher Gould drew consecutive walks off reliever Len Devito to put a runner in scoring position with nobody out. Family Danz catcher Bryce Cutler made a fantastic sliding catch in foul territory to record the first out, but Ryan drilled a line drive to left field, bringing Ciccarelli around to score.
With two outs in the inning, Mesick stroked a single to left for his second hit of the game. Gould came around third looking to score, but Daryl Lockrow picked up the ball in left and hit Young on the cutoff. Young's relay to Cutler was in plenty of time, gunning down Gould by 15 feet.
The First Niagara pitchers did their best to ensure that there would be little suspense to the outcome. Amell retired the side in order in the sixth inning, and Dan Woodside came on to close the game out in the seventh. Woodside got outfielder Mike Fallone to ground out to short, and then struck out Jared Kingsley looking. Devito hit a pop fly behind the shortstop that looked like it might cause trouble, but Guity made the catch falling backwards onto the outfield grass, sealing the 2-0 victory.
"It was a lot of fun - it's been a long time since I played," said Mesick, who went 2-for-3 and threw three scoreless innings. "You never know what to expect when it's been a long time, but my arm's not too sore, and I got a few hits. It was a great experience."
First Niagara played flawless defense in the field, and its pitching was brilliant. The First Niagara staff needed just 76 pitches to complete the contest, throwing 72 percent of them for strikes. Mesick, Amell and Woodside combined to fan nine hitters and did not allow a single walk, giving up only three hits. Team Danz struck out ten but gave up five free passes.
Although many would use this victory as bragging fodder, Mesick is taking the high road.
"No, I won't be trash talking," Mesick said. "Well, maybe with my seven-year-old son."
Joe Bruno Stadium will next be in use on Friday, when the Tri-City ValleyCats begin their 2010 season. The game starts at 7 pm.