Mars pitcher Andrew DiNardo earned the win in his team’s 7-4 victory over Saxonburg in the first game of the Eagle County League title series Monday night.
STEVEN DIETZ/SPECIAL TO THE EAGLE
MARS — Mars put a nice down payment on a third straight Eagle County League baseball title Monday evening. Andrew DiNardo allowed just three hits while fanning 11 batters and teammates Brendan Malone and Bob Spithaler both hit home runs as Mars beat Saxonburg 7-4 in Game 1 of the best-of-five title series at Marburger Field. DiNardo was dominant over the first five innings, surrendering just one run on one hit in that span. He did encounter a bit of trouble starting in the sixth when a walk and a hit-batsman was followed by a two-run double off the bat of Mick Fennell, cutting Mars’ lead to 7-3. In the seventh, Ryan Fennell led off the frame with a solo home run, but DiNardo answered by striking out the next three batters. “The fact that he threw a complete game, it was absolutely huge,” said Mars manager Rob Fester of DiNardo. “Things got a bit dicey late in the game there, but he got outs when he needed them.” DiNardo’s counterpart, Saxonburg’s Nate Buttenfield, did not have as positive an outing. After giving up a solo home run to Malone that put Mars up 7-1 at the start of the fifth inning, Buttenfield left the game in favor of reliever Jason Farren, who pitched the duration of the game. Buttenfield struck out four, walked two and allowed seven runs on seven hits in his four-plus innings of work. “The last time we faced him, he dominated us,” Fester said. “He pitched a great game. Our guys like to be challenged and they were looking forward to seeing him again.” Mars moved in front with Spithaler’s two-run home run in the second inning. Malone’s sacrifice fly in the third put the hosts up 3-0, but it was the bottom of the fourth frame that hurt Saxonburg the most. The first five batters of the inning reached base and Mars scored three runs in the frame with none being driven in by a hit. A bases-loaded walk to Don Dell allowed one run to come in. Joel Gatti was then hit by a pitch, allowing another run to score. Phil Shallenberger later scored on a wild pitch. “Nate’s an outstanding pitcher,” said Saxonburg manager Dan Cunningham. “He had some trouble locating his fastball tonight and that proved to be a bit of a problem. Walks and hit-batsmen didn’t help, but credit Mars. Those guys can hit the fastball.” Note: Game 2 was scheduled for Tuesday evening.