NILES - In walk-off fashion for the third time in five games, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers continued their efforts of getting the season turned around with a 7-6 win over the Williamsport Crosscutters on Sunday night.
Things looked bleak for the Scrappers in the early going. In the second inning, Williamsport's first baseman Logan Pierce hit a three-run home run and the Crosscutters added three more runs over the next four innings. Williamsport pitching was cruising in the early going, as they gave up only one unearned run in the sixth and took a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth.
This is when things for the Crosscutters fell apart and opened the door for the Scrappers.
The Scrappers set the table with three consecutive singles by Cody Ferrell, Claudio Bautista and Juan Herrera to lead off the inning. First baseman Nellie Rodriguez then flew out to left field, not deep enough to allow the runner to score from third. However, Rodriguez would later get his revenge.
With one out in that eighth, Williamsport catcher Corey Bass attempted a snap-throw, pick-off attempt to first and threw the ball into right field. Ferrell and Bautista were able to score and Herrera advanced to third after right fielder Dylan Cozens misplayed the rolling ball. James Roberts then drove in Herrera with an RBI single, cutting the Williamsport lead to 6-4. The Scrappers made it a one-run game after Cozens misread a fly ball hit by left fielder Josh McAdams. The hit, which glanced off of Cozens's glove, could have been his second error in the inning, but was ruled a double.
The score remained tied until the bottom of the ninth. Joel Mejia led off the inning with a weak groundball to pitcher Keivy Rojas. Rojas rushed the throw as the speedster was approaching the bag and threw the ball past Pierce. Mejia advanced to second on the error and to third after a sacrifice bunt by Ferrell. With one out and the tying run just 90 feet away, Bautista hit a chopping grounder to first and reached safely on yet another Crosscutters error. Herrera then flew out to center, bringing up Rodriguez with two outs and the winning run on first.
"I was just sitting on slider because he threw me like six or five sliders in the same at bat," Rodriguez said. "I swung at the first two and I just got more locked in."
On a full count and Bautista running from first, Rodriguez saw another slider from reliever Chris Nichols, who was brought in to face Rodriguez, and hit a screaming line drive to the wall in left-center field. Mejia and Bautista both scored, capping off the biggest comeback victory of the season.
"I felt great because in the eighth inning, it was bases loaded, we had a chance there to tie the game and I popped up to left field. I said if I got another chance I have to get a hit and win the game," he said.
The Scrappers have gone 9-3 since the infamous franchise record setting 12-game losing streak and are currently six games back in the wild card hunt. Manager Ted Kubiak doesn't look back on the losing streak and believes the team has turned the corner toward a successful second half.
"I don't really remember what happened. I have a habit of just kind of forgetting things when they're done," Kubiak said. "The only thing I remember looking back at that (the losing streak), is it didn't seem like we had anything go our way. That's not an excuse, the game happens, like today... we got some breaks. A lot of things went our way.
"They're more acclimated, I think, to the game of baseball right now and what they have to do everyday. The losing streak was kind of the beginning of the year when they're still trying to get used to the grind of everyday work. I think they've turned the corner.
"This (win) is great for us right now. (It) just goes along with what we've been doing for a little while now. Overall, it's just going to lend to a better spirit on the club and they're going to be in a much better mood, that's for sure."