Josh Zeid had to find some way to stay loose during the bottom of the third inning Tuesday night at Bowman Field.
The Williamsport starting pitcher spent about 30 minutes on the bench during that fateful inning as he waited for his next chance to go on the mound to throw. Turns out the best way to keep himself loose and warm was provided by the Crosscutters' offense.
Zeid continually got up to high five his teammates after scoring runs - nine of them in all - in the third inning as the Cutters spotted the big right-hander a 13-run lead before eventually beating the Staten Island Yankees, 20-4, last night in the opener of a key three-game series.
Darin Ruf of the Crosscutters gets a bump at home after scoring one of his team’s nine third-inning runs Tuesday at Bowman Field.
Williamsport scored a season-high in runs, matched a season-high in hits (19) and hit six triples, three courtesy of Carl Uhl in the offensive thrashing of a Yankees team that led the New York-Penn League in ERA (2.14) coming into the game. Eight of the Cutters' nine starting hitters recorded a hit, with only Evan Porter failing to pick one up.
"Every at-bat felt contagious, hit after hit after hit," said Cutters third baseman Anthony Hewitt who hit his fourth home run of the year. "Seeing everyone hit, it was like we were seeing a different team."
"I was happy because they kept at it and kept getting their at-bats," Cutters manager Chris Truby said. "They didn't sit on a lead and just get through the game. Every at-bat counts and they took every one serious. That's what I like to see."
The Cutters have been prone this year to getting an early lead and turning it over to a pitching staff that has been absolutely brilliant. That was far from the case Tuesday night as they scored four in the first, nine in the third, two in the fourth and five in the fifth.
Williamsport led 20-0, and leadoff hitter Zach Collier was 4-for-5 with four RBI before Staten Island even got through its lineup a second time.
Hewitt hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run home run in the first inning when it looked like Yankees starter Matt Richardson could wiggle out of the inning having given up just two runs. And with two runs already scored in the third, Darin Ruf hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run home run off Richardson that really kicked the nine-run inning into gear.
The Cutters sent 13 batters to the plate in the third. Uhl was 2-for-2 in the inning with a pair of triples and an RBI. Leandro Castro was 2-for-2 with a triple and two RBI.
"We had a good approach and we got good pitches and didn't miss them," said Hewitt, who hit a hanging breaking ball over the left-field fence for his fourth homer of the season. "We were hitting mistakes and just having fun."
"Both those home runs were huge because it wasn't to start an inning," Uhl said. "They were hit when we already had scored a few. So those were just adding on to the momentum."
Williamsport had six hits with two strikes last night. Five went for extra bases.
Both homers were hit with two strikes, Castro had an RBI triple, and Jeremy Barnes had an RBI double with two strikes, and Uhl led off the third with a triple.
"You try to shorten up a little bit. But just because you shorten up with two strikes doesn't mean you can't hit a ball hard," Uhl said. "If they make a mistake, you can still capitalize on it."
And there was Zeid, spotted a 4-0 lead after one inning, a 13-0 lead after three, and 20-0 after five. He never lost focus.
Instead, he and catcher Sebastian Valle (2-for-3, 2 RBI) continually called pitches to pound the strike zone. Zeid threw 72 percent of his pitches for strikes after the first inning. He walked just one batter and that was the first one of the game.
"You know, baserunners just make the game go longer and gives them a chance to get back in the game," Zeid said. "Me and Valle were working on getting the ball down and making the defense get the out. I wasn't trying to strike everyone out."
With their seventh win in nine games, Williamsport remained just 2 games behind Mahoning Valley for first place in the Pinckney Division. It also increased its lead in the wild card standings over Staten Island to two games.
"Hopefully we didn't burn out," Uhl said. "Hopefully we have some hits and runs left in us. I hope we can come out with the same approach (Wednesday) and are able to make them pay for fastballs they leave over the plate again."