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Cutters walk off with 14-inning win
August 30, 2011 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT email@example.com
Mickey Morandini didn’t have many options in his bullpen for Monday night’s series-opener with Mahoning Valley. He surely had enough to get through nine innings, assuming he didn’t run into a situation like Saturday’s where his pitching staff gave up 12 runs. But 14 innings? Well that was a different story. A bullpen that had only about four available arms prior to last night’s game worked nine innings of one-run baseball, and Brock Stassi worked a bases-loaded walk to give the Williamsport Crosscutters a 4-3 win over the Scrappers at Bowman Field. The one run the Cutters bullpen gave up came on a top-of-the-ninth home run from Mahoning Valley’s K.C. Serna that tied the game at 3-3. The blown save was the third in 12 opportunities this year for closer Juary Gomez. But Gomez followed the blown save in the ninth with a pair of scoreless innings. Colton Murray threw three scoreless innings to pick up his first professional win. Williamsport also picked up a scoreless inning from Gabriel Arias and two scoreless innings from Matt Campbell. And the pickup couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cutters. The win, combined with Brooklyn’s doubleheader split with Hudson Valley puts Williamsport in a tie for the New York-Penn League Wild Card lead. The Cutters are also just two games behind Auburn for first place in the Pinckney Division. “When you’re tied you (control your own destiny) because if you run the table it’s going to be hard for anybody else to run the table,” said Morandini, the Cutters’ first-year manager. “Running the table will be hard, but we have to look at it like we can do it. We play well at home and four of the (last six games) are here, so the odds are in our favor.” Williamsport won its 24th game at Bowman Field last night. That total is the best in the NYPL. The Cutters are the only team to have not lost double digit games at home this year. And a loss in last night’s 14-inning marathon that lasted more than 4 hours could have been an absolute killer for a Williamsport team that last year missed out on the NYPL playoffs by just ½-game a year ago. “That definitely would have sucked and been a bubble burster,” said Kleven, who pitched five solid innings. “But it definitely helped a lot and if we can get another win (Tuesday) we’ll be in front of Mahoning Valley by a good chunk.” It was that bullpen last night that allowed an offense that was 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position the opportunity to grind out a win. The Cutters’ offense – which stranded eight baserunners in the first four innings and 16 overall – overcame a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the fifth inning. Aaron Altherr scored on Maikel Franco’s RBI triple to center field after reaching on an infield single. One pitch later Harold Martinez lifted a fly ball to deep right field to score Franco. It was Franco’s seventh RBI with the Cutters since he was sent back to Williamsport after an unsuccessful 17-game stint with Lakewood where he hit just .123. Franco is hitting .440 (11 for 25) in six games since being sent back to Williamsport. In that time he has five doubles and a triple. His 35 RBIs are also still a team-best despite having gone 23 days between games played with the Crosscutters. Only Altherr, who’s played nearly 20 more games than Franco, has as many as 30 RBIs this year. “With him and (outfielder Kelly Dugan) gone, we were missing some production (in the middle of the lineup),” Morandini said. “He’s hitting the ball really hard. If he pulled a couple of the balls he’s hitting to center, he’d have four or five home runs since he’s been back.” Williamsport took the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning on a two-out throwing error. With Taylor Black on second base, Kyrell Hudson sent a slow roller to third base when his bat was shattered in half. Scrapper this baseman Jordan Smith – who moved to third from right field when Zack McPhee injured his ankle in the second inning – looked like he went to tag Black who was running to third. He thought better and lobbed a throw to first that bounced some 5 feet in front of first baseman Jake Lowery, bounding over his outstretched glove and toward the Cutters’ dugout. Black scored easily and Hudson advanced to second where he was stranded. And other than Gomez’s hiccup in the top of the ninth, the Williamsport bullpen took over from there. Murray, who was one of just two arms left in the bullpen when he took the mound in the 12th, stranded a pair of runners on base in that 12th inning with a strikeout and a groundout. He threw a perfect 13th inning, and struck out the side in the 14th around a harmless walk to Aaron Siliga. Murray, a 13th-round draft pick out of the University of Kansas, didn’t allow a hit and struck out four in his three innings. “I had a feeling that if it did get to extra innings that I’d probably throw,” Murray said. “You try not to think about who is left in the bullpen. I just worry about doing my job. The approach is still the same.” The walk-off win was nearly as exciting as the previous two Cutters’ walk-off wins this year when Martinez and Hudson provided bottom-of-the-ninth hits. But it was a win nonetheless. Hudson worked a six-pitch walk to lead off the 14th and advanced to third when Smith didn’t stay down on a groundball hit by Altherr, allowing it to trickle in to left field and Hudson to advance to third. An intentional walk to Franco loaded the bases with nobody out. Wil Krasne nearly got out of the inning by getting a pair of groundballs to Serna at second base in which Serna was able to get the force at home. But with two outs and the bases still loaded, Krasne walked Stassi on four pitches that were nowhere near strike zone to force in the winning run. As Stassi took ball four, Martinez raised both arms in the air at second base before the entire Cutters team mobbed Stassi at first base. “We just need wins right now,” Morandini said. “I’m just disappointed in the situational hitting early and with men in scoring position. I think we were 0 for 15 (with runners in scoring position) or something. To win a ballgame when you don’t have that production, you have to be thankful.”
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