NILES - The theme for Mahoning Valley against Williamsport continued Saturday night - poor defense and a lack of hitting. The Scrappers committed three errors, totaling eight for the series, in a 6-2 loss to the Crosscutters.
Williamsport jumped to an early lead in the second inning after left fielder Samuel Hiciano hit an RBI double that scored first baseman Logan Pierce who singled one batter earlier. Crosscutters center fielder, Jiandido Tromp, knocked in the first of his three RBIs with a one out single two batters later.
Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak couldn't contain the frustration built up over this past week. After the single by Tromp, Crosscutters' designated hitter Gustavo Martinez came to the plate. With a 1-0 count on Martinez, Scrappers' pitcher Kenny Mathews, who was appearing in his first professional start, threw a back-door breaking ball low and away. Right-handed hitting Martinez checked his swing, prompting home plate umpire Erich Bacchus to appeal to the bases umpire George Riedel. Riedel, who was standing on the left side of the mound with a runner on second, ruled that Martinez did not swing at the pitch. Kubiak was convinced otherwise.
Before Mathews could deliver the third pitch of the at-bat, Bacchus turned to the home dugout and proceeded to throw Kubiak out of the ball game.
"I just told him how bad he was," Kubiak said about why he was tossed. "When the catchers tell you they're strikes, there's a problem.
"I told them, I said 'look, I'm trying to teach you guys how to umpire.' They're young, they're trying to learn and I understand that. They're two new guys. They seem to be really novice. I don't think they know much about the game. They go strictly by the book... which is fine... but you gotta have a little feel for the game too."
Much like the umpires, the young Scrappers also are young and getting a feel for the game. For most of the players, these first few weeks of the season have been the first three weeks playing professional baseball.
Twenty-one of the 31 players on the roster played the 2012 season at levels below the New-York Penn League - nine collegiately and 12 for the Arizona League Indians. These players, according to Kubiak, have a lot to learn about how the game is played.
"Most of the young players that come into the game today do not understand how to play the game," Kubiak said. "We've got to instruct them and teach them, and it's so hard to break through that sometimes because of what they've had as instruction in (the past)."
Nellie Rodriguez, the youngest player on the Scrappers at age 18, seems to be adapting and absorbing what the coaches at this level are teaching him.
Rodriguez, who hit his first home run of the season Friday night, went 4-for-4 with four singles and an RBI Saturday. He has improved his batting average to .300 on the season.
"I just feel really confident right now. My swing feels good," Rodriguez said. "(I) just keep trusting my approach that coach (Shaun) Larkin has been telling me.
"He's telling me to keep my approach up the middle and to right field... and just look for a pitch that I can hit well. Everything's working out."
Kubiak has been impressed with Rodriguez's ability to apply the instruction the coaching staff has been teaching the players.
"He has absorbed everything we've been telling him," Kubiak said. "Offensively and defensively, he's just been going with it. It's very hard for a young player to assimilate the instruction and put it into play and he's doing it. He's been progressing well since he got here."
The Scrappers hope to turn things around tonight as they begin a three-game series against the State College Spikes. They return home on Wednesday to begin a six-game homestand.
"We're just on a downhill right now," Rodriguez said. "We're not producing as we're supposed to be. We have the talent to be one of the top teams in the league, but right now we're just not hitting as we want to."