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Cutters play well but fall to Scrappers
July 23, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT
Chris Serritella hit a stinger back through the middle. It had two-run single written all over it.
Mahoning Valley pitcher Ryan Merritt stuck out his glove and found the baseball in the leather. He calmly took a few steps toward first and lobbed the ball over for the final out of the fifth inning.
It was Williamsport's best chance at overcoming a two-run deficit against the Scrappers on Monday night at Bowman Field. But like many of its other at-bats with runners on base last night, it ultimately came up empty.
Two Mahoning Valley relievers threw four innings of one-hit baseball to close out a 3-1 win over the Crosscutters in the opener of a quick two-game series. It was the second consecutive strong game the Crosscutters played as they close out a struggling month of July that has them just 5-16 in the month.
Williamsport also lost shortstop and leadoff hitter Roman Quinn to injury last night after just one inning and one at-bat. Quinn grounded out to the pitcher in the bottom of the first inning and came out to warm up for the top of the second inning. But at the end of warm-ups, Quinn called out Tracy and trainer Taka Sakurai. Quinn was removed from the game and replaced by Gustavo Gonzalez.
Manager Andy Tracy said Quinn was dealing with a sore hand which was aggravated when he was jammed in his first at-bat. Tracy said he'll know more about the extent of the injury today.
"I thought it was a good baseball game," Tracy said. "They made some good pitches. We left some guys on base. We had one error. Good baseball game."
Williamsport actually outhit the Scrappers last night, 7-5, but Mahoning Valley made its hits count. In fact, Williamsport starting pitcher Luis Gonzalez allowed just three hits, but one was a two-out RBI single from Hunter Jones in the second inning, and the other was a two-out, two-run home run from clean-up hitter Charlie Valerio in the third inning. It was Valerio's fourth home run.
On the flip side, Williamsport was just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Williamsport is hitting .233 with runners in scoring position this year.
And with runners on base last night, the Cutters were just 3 for 16, and only one of the three hits scored a run. "That's how baseball goes," Cutters first baseman Cameron Perkins said. "They didn't hit the ball too well, but they had two timely hits. With runners in scoring position sometimes that's all it takes. We were scratching out a couple innings, but we really couldn't put anything together."
Serritella, who is tied for the league lead with 24 RBIs this year, led off the fourth inning with a double and moved to third on a ground ball. He broke from third on a grounder to third from Yan Carlos Olmo and was thrown out easily at the plate in a 3-0 game.
But Brian Pointer made up for it with his second run-scoring, extra-base hit in as many nights, driving an RBI double off the center field wall to cut the deficit to 3-1. It was the first of only two innings in which the Cutters had two hits last night.
The other one came in the fifth inning when Gustavo Gonzalez reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error. Two batters later Larry Greene Jr. ripped a single to center field, but Gonzalez was held up at third because Mahoning Valley center fielder Tyler Naquin, a first-round of the Cleveland Indians this year, has maybe the best outfield throwing arm in the New York-Penn League. Greene alertly took second base on the throw to the plate.
But three pitches later, Serritella was victim to Merritt's nice snag up the middle.
"We didn't get a big hit when we needed it," Tracy said. "We had some good at-bats. We only had four strikeouts which is pretty good for us."
Jeb Stefan and Geoff Broussard combined on four innings of two-hit relief for the Cutters, continuing an upward trend in the production of the Williamsport bullpen. Stefan stranded a runner on second in each of his first two innings and left another stranded on first in the eighth inning.
Broussard, who is averaging better than 11 strikeouts per nine innings, struck out Naquin looking at a fastball with a runner on second in the ninth. Naquin was hitting .500 against the Crosscutters this year.
"I think we've been consistent the last few outings," Broussard said. "We're kind of coming into our own. It's getting better and it shows."
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CRAIG S. MCKIBBEN JR/Sun-Gazette Williamsport third baseman Mitch Walding throws out Mahoning Valley batter Erik Gonzalez on a slow-roller in the second inning on Monday at Bowman Field.