It was the smallest of change that was made to Kelly Dugan's swing, one that wouldn't really be noticeable to the every-once-in-a-while visitor to Bowman Field.
The change, though, has made a noticeable difference to the former second-round draft pick. The right fielder has begun to drive the ball to all fields, but especially pulling the baseball. And Monday night he turned on a 1-0 fastball from Mahoning Valley starting pitcher Mason Radeke and hit a game-tying, three-run home run to right field in the sixth inning.
Bob Stumpo of the Crosscutters tags out Cody Elliott of Mahoning Valley in the fourth inning Monday at Bowman Field.
Two innings later he lifted a fly ball to left field that scored Aaron Altherr with the eventual winning run, and Williamsport won the three-game series with the Scrappers by winning last night, 7-4. Cutters shortstop Taylor Black hit his first professional home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, a two-run shot that gave Williamsport a pair of insurance runs.
The home run for Dugan was just the second of his professional career since being drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2009 draft. His only other homer came on a nine-game rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League a year ago.
"I didn't even think I got it high enough," Dugan said. "So I really ran hard out of the box and I'm just glad it carried."
Dugan turned what was almost a disastrous missed opportunity of an inning into just what Williamsport needed with one swing from the left-hand batter's box. The Crosscutters had runners on first and second with nobody out in the inning before a fly out and a strikeout quickly put two outs on the board with runners on the corners.
Luis Unda salvaged something from the sixth inning with a two-out, two-strike RBI single to left field to score Bob Stumpo to cut the Scrappers' lead to 4-1. Two pitches later Dugan crushed a line drive that just got over the right field wall, some 350 feet away, to tie the score at 4-4.
"Kelly's home run was huge, especially with runners in scoring position where we've been struggling to score," Black said. "From the first pitch we felt a little like we were on our heels. Going back and tying the game up gave us a little momentum."
It was the first Crosscutters home run at Bowman Field since opening night.
"Kelly really has been swinging the bat well for an extended stretch here," Morandini said. "He's been driving it and it's been kind of bad luck. He's been hitting stuff right at people for a while now. But he stays with it, he works hard at it. I was happy for him."
Three weeks ago Velandia and Morandini put a little bit more of a loading mechanism into Dugan's swing, one where he gets his weight on to his back foot before the ball is delivered so he can drive forward and put some more power behind the baseball when he hits. Dugan has taken to it and is hitting .324 (11 for 34) in his last 10 games. During that stretch he also has a .441 slugging percentage and an .831 on-base percentage.
Dugan is clearly a player still growing into his power as a hitter, as evidenced by his 21 singles in his 25 hits this season with Williamsport. His three-run home run Monday night was one Morandini said his team has needed. It was three runs the Cutters didn't have to scrap and claw.
"I just think it's all about timing. When you hit a ball like that, the timing is just perfect," Dugan said. "I'm not trying to hit it far. I'm literally just trying to get hits. I'm not really concerned with home runs."
"He took to the changes real well. He's driving the ball now and pulling it with some authority," Morandini said. "That's pretty good for a 20-year old to be able to do. He's taken to the change, and that's the key. You have to get him to buy in to it and he bought in to it right away. From Day 1 he's been a lot better."
Mahoning Valley took a 2-0 lead on Cutters starter Austin Wright in the first inning, scoring in their first at-bat for the fifth time in six games against Williamsport. Jake Lowery hit an RBI double and John Barr added an RBI infield single before Wright got out of the frame with a pair of strikeouts.
Wright then got out of a bases loaded jam in the second inning with a 1-2-3 double play. But Wright was done after 51 pitches in the 90-degree heat.
"That double play was huge, it kept the game at 2-0," Morandini said. "He just labored. He left a lot of pitches up, a lot of fastballs up and over the plate that they hit hard. But he did what he had to do to get out of that inning."
Cody Fick surrendered a pair of unearned runs in the fourth inning when the potential final out of the inning rolled under the glove of second baseman Cody Asche at second base. Fick lasted just two innings after throwing 30 pitches in the fourth inning and Hector Neris, despite throwing two scoreless innings, lasted just those two innings after throwing 39 pitches.
Austin Brough, who's established himself as a back end bullpen pitcher for the Cutters, threw the final three innings and picked up his first win with the Cutters. Each time he began to struggle and Gabriel Arias began warming up the bullpen, Brough was able to get a double play to get out of a jam.
Maikel Franco made a great diving catch of a liner at third base in the eighth and then doubled off Cody Elliott at first base. And in the ninth, Brough got a tailor-made double play ball to shortstop for the first two outs of the inning after issuing a leadoff walk.
"It's always huge to get a double play, especially in a situation where they have runners on," Black said. "To get a double play (in the eighth) and at the end, too, is huge for a pitcher's confidence."
"We were hoping Brough could go three," Morandini said. "Now we have Arias, (Bryan) Morgado and (Colton) Murray ready to go for Wednesday. I'm glad he got the double play with the right handers coming up in the ninth, because we were thinking of going to Arias there."