Brian Pointer sat in front of his locker in the Williamsport Crosscutters' clubhouse Tuesday night running his hands through his hair, full of frustrated body language for not coming up with a deep fly ball to center field that changed the tide of Tuesday night's game.
He'll tell you right now he thought he was going to catch the drive off the bat off Mahoning Valley's Tyler Naquin. The center fielder will probably also tell you he should have caught the baseball.
The fact was he nearly made an are-your-kidding-me play to keep the Scrappers off the scoreboard with two outs in the eighth inning, but when the baseball fell to the gray warning track of the seemingly boundless outfield of Bowman Field, it meant a lead for Mahoning Valley, and eventually a 3-1 win.
The Scrappers swept the three-game series, sending Williamsport to its fourth consecutive loss. The loss also erased an absolutely brilliant effort from starting pitcher Josh Warner who threw seven shutout innings, striking out seven and allowing just three hits.
Warner was gone from the game by the time Naquin, the first-round pick this year of the Cleveland Indians, hammered an 0-2 offering from reliever Steven Inch to center field. The triple scored the Scrappers' eighth and ninth hitters, who had both reached with one-out singles. In six games against Williamsport, Naquin is hitting .474 (9 for 19) with five walks and four RBIs.
"I really had a chance to catch that ball in center field. I came really close and I just couldn't get to it," Pointer said. "I felt like I got a decent jump on it. I thought I was going to get to it and ended up not being able to. I was kind of surprised because I thought I was going to catch it. It's just frustrating."
Diego Gonzalez of the Crosscutters dives for third base as Scrappers third baseman Joe Sever waits for the throw on a steal in the first inning Tuesday at?Bowman Field.
Inch had allowed just two runs in his last 8 2/3 innings, and didn't allow a run in either of his previous two outings. He was called on in the eighth with a 1-0 lead and got a three-pitch strikeout for the first out. He then gave up back-to-back singles to Hunter Jones and Robel Garcia before striking out leadoff hitter Mark Bradley on a 2-2 breaking ball for the second out.
Inch got ahead of Naquin 0-2, but left a pitch up in the zone Naquin drove to the deepest part of the field. Naquin is hitting a team-best .371 this year.
"Inchy has been throwing lights out for us," Cutters manager Andy Tracy said. "It was kind of a tough read and I though (Pointer) got to it. It's baseball. Big park."
Inch surrendered another run in the ninth on a majestic home run to left field by Juan Romero, who stood and watched the hit for a few seconds before starting his trot. Inch's next pitch was more than a foot behind Mahoning Valley's Jeremy Lucas, and Inch was immediately ejected.
Inch calmly walked off the mound and toward the clubhouse while Tracy argued with home plate umpire Brian Peterson.
"I thought it slipped out of his hand," Tracy said. "There was no warning given. I just went out there and said how does (Peterson) know he threw at him? It's hot out, it's humid, the ball's probably moist."
Warner was nearly unhittable for his seven innings of work. The Australian threw seven innings for the second time this season, and for the first time had a scoreless outing. He lowered his ERA to 1.08.
The right-hander faced more than four batters in an inning just once, and threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of 24 batters he faced. Of his 88 pitches, 58 (66 percent) were for strikes. He made a point to work off of his fastball last night, but said he had the confidence to throw both his change-up and breaking ball in any count.
He allowed just three singles and didn't allow a baserunner to reach second base. He also struck out seven.
"I'm building a lot of confidence, and I started building it in extended spring training," Warner said. "I had a couple bad innings toward the end, but I started getting my confidence back up the last few outings here. I've just really been enjoying pitching."
Williamsport took a 1-0 lead in the third inning using the speed at the top of the order of Roman Quinn and Diego Gonzalez. Quinn beat out a bunt single and advanced all the way to third when third baseman Joe Sever rushed his throw and threw it into the Cutters' bullpen.
Three pitches later, Gonzalez grounded a ball deep in the hole to shortstop allowing Quinn to score. But after that third inning, the Cutters had just five baserunners. Larry Greene worked a one-out walk in the ninth inning before Chace Numata popped out and Tyler Greene struck out to end the game.
Williamsport was swept in a series for the first time this season.
"I think it's frustrating that we didn't reward Warner for his outing," Tracy said.
"It's frustrating not to take at least one out of the series," Warner said. "To get swept is a bit of a bummer. Hopefully we get a couple of those back in the Brooklyn and Staten Island series."