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Cutters drop series finale to Auburn

June 24, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT

mrupert@sungazette.com

Trey Ford started his trot down to first base, the baseball still rising higher and higher. He lifted his bat over his head in his right hand, looking poised to slam it into the ground. He flipped it into foul territory softly.

He rounded first base by just a few feet and watched Auburn first baseman Shawn Pleffner catch the mile-high infield pop-up in the bottom of the 10th. Ford stopped cold in his tracks and clapped his hands together.

He just missed the 1-2 fastball Doubledays pitcher Richie Mirowski threw him. Ford's had just five at-bats this year for Williamsport, but has rarely missed a chance to drive a hittable pitch like that one.

It was the Crosscutters' best chance to make something happen trailing by a run in the 10th inning Sunday night. Instead, Mirowski retired the side in order allowing Auburn to salvage the finale of the four-game series, 6-5.

The Cutters finished their first week of the New York-Penn League season at 4-3 and tied for second place in the Pinckney Division with Auburn, just one game behind State College (5-2). It was a week that saw Williamsport split a four-game, home-and-home series with State College before winning two of three against the Doubledays at home.

The Crosscutters had a series sweep at their fingertips last night, but stranded a runner in scoring position in four innings.

"I've said it before, we're going to have some rough times," Crosscutters manager Andy Tracy said. "We started facing some older guys that had a good breaking ball and we started guessing a bit. It got us in trouble. We ended up taking some fastballs for strike three."

Auburn starter Silvio Medina got Larry Greene to ground into a fielder's choice in the third inning with the bases loaded and two outs. In the fifth, with two runs already across for Williamsport, Auburn reliever Bryan Harper ä the older brother of Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper ä struck out both Greene and Mitch Walding with two on and the bases loaded, respectively to end the inning.

Mirowski pulled another Houdini act in the ninth when he struck out Yan Olmo with a slider and Walding with a fastball down the middle to strand runners at first and second. The Cutters were just 3-for-21 from their third through seventh spots in the order yesterday. Only Cameron Perkins had multiple hits.

"When you start guessing, you're locking yourself up," Tracy said. "When you're guessing as a kid, you become one dimensional."

Ford provided a spark for Cutters out of the eighth spot in the lineup in his first start of the season, picking up two hits, including a double, and reaching base three times. Of his six plate appearances this year, Ford has reached base four times.

He singled to lead off the third inning, eventually scoring on Chris Serritella's bases-loaded walk. He doubled to the wall in left-center and scored two batters later on Roman Quinn's triple to almost the same spot.

"I love when Trey is in there. That's the guy we want at the plate," said Cutters reliever Steven Inch, who allowed just a run in 2 2/3 innings of work. "He's a veteran guy and a real smart player."

"Offensively, Trey is one of our better hitters. I really like Trey and his right-handed bat," Tracy said. "It's just hard to get him in the lineup right now. We only have three middle infielders. Obviously Quinn is in there and (Tyler Greene) is going to play. I have to get him in there whenever I can. His bat is nice."

All five of the Cutters' runs were scored by either Quinn, Ford or catcher Logan Moore. Those three helped the Cutters score nearly every time Auburn did.

After the Doubledays took a 2-1 lead in the fifth, Moore doubled to lead off the inning and scored on Diego Gonzalez's sacrifice fly. Perkins followed with an RBI single to score Quinn and give Williamsport a 2-1 lead.

When the Doubledays again scored in the top of the sixth to take a 5-3 lead, that's when Ford and Quinn had their extra-base hits. Gonzalez picked up his second RBI with an infield single to score Quinn.

But Williamsport went scoreless over the final four innings thanks to Mirowski and left-hander Elliott Waterman whose slider kept the Cutters' left-hand dominant lineup off-balance.

"I think it's just baseball," Tracy said. "At times they were fouling off some pitches that they should hit. I'm not talking get a hit on, I'm just saying put it in play hard and see what happens from there. That's all you can really do. When we get them thinking that way, they'll be pretty good ballplayers."

The Cutters got another well-pitched game from starter Ulises Joaquin who struggled with his command all night. The diminutive right-hander with a live arm walked four and gave up five hits in his 5 1/3 innings of work.

He allowed single runs in the second and fifth innings. With his pitch count around 75, he went out for the sixth inning and gave up a towering solo home run to Estarlin Martinez to lead off the sixth inning that hit the light tower in left field a good third of the way up. After getting a lazy fly ball, Joaquin walked Carlos Lopez before he was pulled for Inch.

"The pitch count was right where we wanted him. We were short-handed tonight so we needed him," Tracy said about Joaquin starting the sixth inning. "I don't think he was bad until he gave up the home run. Then it looked like he just backed off a little bit on his stuff and wasn't letting it go."

Auburn took the lead in the sixth inning with Wes Schill doubled down the third-base line past Mitch Walding who was drawn in prepared for the bunt. After a sacrifice bunt, Second-round draft pick Tony Renda, who is hitting just .160 on the short season, hit a frozen rope back through the middle off of Matt Sisto to score Schill and give Auburn the 6-5 lead.

Two Cutters relievers walked five in 4 2/3 innings and gave up two runs. None of those who were walked by the bullpen scored.

"Obviously, we want to sweep it, but I think we played good baseball," Inch said. "Going into the next series, hopefully this builds some momentum."

 
 

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Blog Photos

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Williamsport second baseman Trey Ford waits to apply the tag to Auburn's Angelberth Montilla in the third inning Sunday at Bowman Field.