Andy Tracy sat back in his chair behind his desk and shrugged his shoulders.
"Good ballgame," the first-year Williamsport Crosscutters manager said.
It's about all there was to say after the Cutters lost to Aberdeen, 4-3, Friday night at Bowman Field missing out on their first series sweep of the season. Williamsport outhit Aberdeen, 10-8, got more solid production from the bottom third of the order and got great bullpen pitching from Andrew Aizenstadt and Matt Sisto. They just came up one timely hit short of a win.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
The Williamsport Crosscutters’ Zach Taylor slides into third base in front of manager Andy Tracy (22) during the bottom of the second inning on Friday night at Bowman Field. Aberdeen third baseman Torsten Boss, right, awaits the throw and pitcher David Richardson backs up the play. The Crosscutters dropped the final game of the three-game series to Aberdeen, 4-3.
Through half of their six-game homestand, the Cutters have reason to be optimistic. It's the first sustained level of consistent, good play really since the first week of the season. It's a team that truly seems to have turned the page on the season following a dreadful 6-23 July.
"This is definitely giving us some confidence going into the next series," said center fielder Kyle Hoppy, who was 3 for 4 with an RBI. "Hopefully we can win another series."
Williamsport was stymied for the first six inning by an unlikely source. Aberdeen starting pitcher David Richardson entered last night's game averaging just 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings and 5.1 walks per nine innings.
But the former 17th-round draft pick dazzled the Cutters offense with a brilliant change-up. The 21-year old out of Tampa, Fla., struck out nine in six innings and walked just one. 58 of his 98 pitches (59 percent) went for strikes.
He struck out at least two in three innings, including striking out the side in the third inning. Five of his strikeouts came with his change-up and two more came on a breaking ball. The Cutters, who lead the league in strikeouts with 385, struck out 13 times last night.
Of the 13 victims, Roman Quinn struck out five times and Tyler Greene struck out three. Greene was coming off back-to-back solid games at the plate.
Four of the team's 13 strikeouts came with runners in scoring position.
"Obviously we're hunting fastballs at this level and he pitched us backwards and got us chasing some stuff," Tracy said. "He pitched a good ballgame."
For the first time in the series Williamsport had to battle back from an early deficit. Aberdeen scored a pair of runs off of Crosscutters starter Luis Gonzalez in the second inning. The IronBirds got two more off Gonzalez in the third. The two runs in the third came on three two-out hits.
The Cutters cut into the deficit in the fifth after a walk and a single put two runners on base. Hoppy hit the first of his two doubles, this one to the left-field corner past a diving Will Howard to score Chace Numata. Tracy held up Logan Moore at third base on the hit with the top of the order coming up much to the chagrin of the nearly 1,200 fans in attendance.
"One-hundred percent I was stopping him," Tracy said. "It's 4-1, if he gets thrown out at the plate with one out and the top of the lineup coming up We need runs at the time. If he's 100 percent to score, I'll send him, but he wasn't 100 percent."
Moore and Hoppy were stranded on base when Quinn struck out and Mitch Walding drove a ball to the left-center field gap that was run down just in front of the warning track by Howard. It was one of two great catches by Howard that took away potential scoring chances for the Cutters.
The other came on a looping fly ball in foul territory in the eighth inning with the tying run on second base. Walding's drive to the left-center field gap had two-run double written all over it before Howard hauled it in.
"You kind of have to tip your hat to good defense and try to hit it the same way the next time and hope they don't get to it," Hoppy said. "That's just how the game goes and you have to keep going."
Walding got the Cutters' eighth-inning comeback started when he tripled to the same left-center field gap to lead off the inning. It was the third baseman's third triple of the year, second on the team to Quinn's eighth.
Larry Greene Jr. followed with a two-strike single to left field to score Walding. Greene then scored on Chris Serritella's bullet double to right-center to cut the deficit to 4-3. Aberdeen got out of the inning when reliever Tom Windegardner, who took the loss in the series opener Wednesday after a Cutters ninth-inning rally, got out of the inning with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Yan Carlos Olmo with runners on second and third.
Four times last night the Cutters stranded a runner at third base.
"They were hard hits, too, in the eighth. They weren't bleeders," Tracy said. "The triple for Mitch, he needed a hit. Larry came through with two strikes. Serritella got him over with good situational hitting that turned out to be a double and an RBI."
"This shows some promise that we can string some hits together," Hoppy said. "We just gotta keep at it and not let (missing out on scoring opportunities) bring us down. Hopefully if we miss out on a run we get one the next inning."
Aizenstadt and Sisto gave the Cutters the chance to rally by throwing five innings of one-hit relief. Aizenstadt, who was signed from the independent Wichita Wingnuts last week, has yet to allow a run in two appearances.
Last night in three innings he allowed just one hit, but struck out three and got six ground-ball outs. Four of Sisto's last five outings have been scoreless.
"We saw Aizenstadt throw on the road for us and we really liked what we saw," Tracy said. "We got a full bullpen right now, so we're trying to get guys on that mound as much as we can."