The Williamsport clubhouse was quiet with just the echoing explosions of fireworks over Bowman Field and the random murmurs of quiet conversation filling the air. Chris Serritella sat in front of his locker rubbing his forehead with his hand.
This loss hurt.
It wasn't just that it was a 6-5 loss to Connecticut in the opener of a three-game series. It wasn't just that it was a loss in a 15-inning marathon that stretched some 4 hours. It wasn't just that the Cutters couldn't capitalize on another well-pitched game from its improving staff.
It was everything all added into one that made this loss hurt.
Williamsport right fielder Yan Carlos Olmo overran a fly ball down the right-field line that just barely dropped in fair territory allowing the Tigers to score the winning run in the top of the 15th inning. Efrain Nieves capped off nine consecutive scoreless innings by the Tigers' with a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the 15th to close out the game.
It was the fourth one-run game for the Cutters in as many games on their current homestand. They're 2-2 during the homestand.
"It's definitely a really bad way to lose," Cutters shortstop Tyler Greene said. "I thought we pitched really well and I thought we played good enough to win. We just couldn't get a run there in the last three or four innings. It's definitely a tough loss, but we can still win two in a row and win the series."
"I don't know if it stings. We want to get a win in that situation," Williamsport manager Andy Tracy said. "We battled them and I'm proud of the kids. They definitely played their butts off."
The Crosscutters' offense just wasn't quite able to do enough to back the solid pitching performance from a staff that seems to have found its footing. They never scored again after Gustavo Gonzalez gave Williamsport its first lead with a three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The home run was a much-needed big blow from an offense that hadn't homered in 13 games and has hit just two home runs at Bowman Field all year prior to Gonzalez's blast. It was a much-needed multiple-run hit for an offense that has really had to scratch and claw for every run during its current homestand.
And it was a big blow from an unlikely source. Gonzalez, the Cutters' back-up second baseman, was hitting just .211 coming into the game. The homer was the third of his career. He also homered for the Gulf Coast League Phillies and at Clearwater last year.
"In the dugout everyone was pumped up," Cutters reliever Nic Hanson said. "It pumps you up especially when you get a hit like that from a guy you least expect it from. It was cool. Everyone loved it."
The homer gave Williamsport a 5-3 lead after six inning, and after Jon Musser's best start of the season and two fantastic innings out of Hanson in which he retired six of the seven hitters he faced, the Cutters stole any kind of momentum Connecticut had gathered after hitting back-to-back home runs to lead off the fourth inning and take a two-run lead.
And with Geoff Broussard waiting in the wings to close out the game, the lead seemed safe. Broussard hadn't allowed a run since June 29 prior to last night. He had gone 9 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings allowing just six hits.
The Tigers' Danry Vasquez and Patrick Smith quickly got to the right-hander with back-to-back singles to lead off the eighth inning putting runners at the corners. Williamsport was unable to turn a double play on a slow-roller hit to shortstop by Devon Travis allowing Vasquez to score and cutting the deficit to 5-4.
After a huge strikeout by Broussard for the second out, Jordan Dean laced a 1-1 pitch into the right-field corner for a two-out, RBI triple to score Travis with the tying run.
Dean went just 2 for 7 last night, but both were triples and one drove in the tying run in the eighth inning and the other drove in the go-ahead run in the 15th. They were the first two triples of the year for the 15th-round selection out of Central Michigan this year.
For the Cutters it was the third time during this homestand that they coughed up a lead in the eighth inning. The first two times it ended up in walk-off wins against Aberdeen in the first two games of the homestand. Last night Williamsport wasn't so fortunate.
The Crosscutters recorded just two hits following Gonzalez's three-run home run a one-out single in the 10th inning by Olmo, and a two-out infield single from Greene in the 13th inning.
"As a lineup, and as hitters, we have to back (the pitching staff) up," said Greene, who also drew two walks in a game for the first time this season. "They're going out there and pitching their butts off for us so we have to go out there and battle and try to get some runs on the board and come through when it really counts."
After Gonzalez's home run, however, four Connecticut pitchers combined on nine shutout innings. First it was Joe Rogers who stranded runners on first and second in his one inning of work.
Then it was left-hander Alex Phillips who had a big-sweeping curveball that led to three one-hit innings. He struck out three.
Big 6-foot-8, 270-pound right-hander Hunter Scantling out of Florida State shut down the Cutters for three more innings, lowering his season ERA to 0.75. And Nieves, a side-arming left-hander, struck out three in two innings to pick up the win.
"A solid 6-8 right-hander, then a solid lefty comes in and then a lefty closer who had some deception and good slider," Tracy said. "They just kept throwing good arms at us the whole night."
Williamsport's best opportunity to win the game came in the 11th inning when with one out and Kyle Hoppy on first Mitch Walding crushed a ball to left field. Hoppy came hard around second base thinking the ball would at least carom off the wall if it wasn't over the wall.
But Vasquez, an 18-year old left fielder that leads the New York-Penn League in outfield assists, leaned up against the left-field wall as he made the catch. Hoppy was never able to get back to first and was doubled off to end the inning.
"Hoppy just got over the bag a little too far and couldn't return," Tracy said. "Just a kid getting excited and trying to make a play happen when a kid is driving the ball off the wall. It's just an aggressive baserunning mistake."
"I thought the game was over as soon as he hit it," Greene said. "I thought it was gone or it was off the wall, and the guy ended up catching it. It's just stuff like that and other little things that make you lose games. But we'll come back and get better from this."
Steven Inch threw 3 2/3 innings of brilliant relief to keep Williamsport in the game in extra innings. He allowed just two hits and retired nine of the 11 batters he faced. It was his second consecutive positive outing after being roughed up for six runs in two innings at Lowell last week.
Inch threw 49 pitches, 32 of which were strikes (65 percent).
"It was huge," Hanson said of Inch's outing. "I think we only had one guy left (in the bullpen) to go tonight and he was on one day's rest, so he was probably still a little sore."
"He's got action down in the zone," Tracy said. "The angle on his sinker and how good it is is exceptional. I like where he's coming on."