Chace Numata's eyes got real big, his eyebrows raising quickly. He's been on the wrong side of the slight hesitation in Josh Warner's pitching delivery. For just a split second as Warner begins his delivery to the plate, there's a slight hitch, like someone hitting the pause button on a remote control.
A split second might as well be an eternity, though, when it takes a 90 mph fastball less than a half-second to reach homeplate. Warner, Williamsport's opening day starter Monday night, used it to his advantage in allowing just two hits in six innings as the Crosscutters won their fourth consecutive opening night game, this time 6-2 over State College.
"Facing him in intersquads, it's tough," said Numata, who caught Warner last night. "That little hesitation throws your timing off. It's probably why a lot of the batters were getting fooled on fastballs inside and change-ups away."
In a sloppy game which featured six errors five committed by State College and not a single earned run being scored, Warner was one of a number of players that made a successful debut for the Cutters. Roman Quinn electrified fans in the first inning creating the team's first run with his legs by beating out an infield single and forcing an errant throw to go to second. He then stole third, forcing another errant throw allowing him to score.
Tyler Greene recovered from a tough start to the season in Lakewood by hitting a big two-run double in the second inning, and Numata had a clutch two-out, two-strike RBI single in the sixth inning.
Heralded Phillies prospect Larry Greene went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, and Mitch Walding was also 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.
"It wasn't the prettiest game in the world, but I'm sure everyone was kind of nervous because it was the first game," said Cutters first baseman Brock Stassi who finished with a pair of hits and an RBI. "For a lot of guys it was their first pro game."
Warner, a free agent signing out of Australia in 2010, allowed a pair of runs in the fifth inning, neither of which was earned when Tyler Greene overthrew first base on what should have been the third out of the inning. But Warner worked three 1-2-3 innings and was able to wiggle out of jams he created in the fifth and third innings.
With runners on second and third in the first inning, Warner induced a weak ground ball to first to end the threat. He also got a great double play from Quinn at shortstop to stop a threat in the third inning.
"I think he's confident right now," Cutters first-year manager Andy Tracy said. "He threw well in Lakewood in a couple outings and he really threw well for us in extended. We really trust him on the mound right now."
"He just spotted up," Numata said. "He was confident with his fastball, was great with his change-up. He stayed confident the whole game."
The Cutters had their three-run lead cut to 3-2 with Greene's throwing error in the fifth. But State College gave those two right back in the bottom of the sixth.
Yan Carlos Olmo reached on a throwing error when he put down a bunt and advanced all the way to third with one out in the sixth. Two batters later Numata rolled a two-strike pitch back through the middle to score Olmo and give the Cutters a 4-2 lead.
After a walk to Greene, Quinn grounded a slow roller to second which the Spikes' Francisco Aponte didn't stay down on. The ball rolled right through his legs allowing Numata score. One pitch later, Stassi, who hit just .200 in 50 games with the Cutters last year, floated a ball to right field to score Greene and give Williamsport a 6-2 lead. Stassi was 2-for-4 last night and also made a great defensive play in the eighth to save a run.
"He's just a professional baseball player. He plays defense, he runs the bases, he puts solid at-bats together," Tracy said of Stassi.
"After the year I had last year, it's always nice to come out and get a few knocks," Stassi said. "I'm very fortunate that I'm still here and (the Phillies) believe in me enough to keep me around. Hopefully I can keep showing that last year was kind of a fluke."