It just seemed fitting for Williamsport to end its season the way it did Wednesday night. For as dreadful as the first six weeks of the season were, the last five weeks have been fun to watch.
The Crosscutters beat playoff-bound Auburn last night, 8-4, and in the process the players all showcased the tools that made this one of the mostly talented teams to play in Bowman Field in recent memory. Roman Quinn stole his 30th base of the year and showcased his rocket launcher of a right arm at shortstop.
Cameron Perkins recorded a pair of hits and RBIs to finish with a .304 average. Chris Serritella finished his year with 89 hits after two more last night, the second-highest total in Williamsport Crosscutters history. Larry Greene Jr. hit one more rocket, a bullet of a drive which carried over the center fielder's head for a double.
The team which walked through the handshake line last night sharing hug after hug with their teammates was far different than the one which went 6-23 through the month of July. This team played the final six weeks of the season at one game under .500. The Crosscutters won their 30th game of the season last night, a monumental accomplishment since it had just 13 wins through the first six weeks of the season.
"It's a different bunch of guys out on that field. They're not really kids anymore," Cutters manager Andy Tracy said. "At times, it'll show. It'll peek its head out, but I think they're starting to understand the game a little bit. We never thought we'd get to 30 wins with the way it was going earlier in the year."
The Cutters closed out their season emphatically last night as Jeb Stefan pitched a brilliant five innings, allowing just three hits and a run. The right-hander had been a key bullpen piece much of the year, with his ERA at 2.14 back on Aug. 6, but after moving into the starting rotation on Aug. 9, just two of his final six appearances allowed one run or less.
Last night was one of them. His breaking ball showed a hard bite, and he hit both sides of the plate with his fastball. The only run he allowed came on a second-inning sacrifice fly to Carlos Alvarez.
"It's kind of a relief. You don't want to spend the whole winter thinking about having a bad outing to end the season," Stefan said. "It kind of came together a bit (Wednesday)."
"I thought he was lights out," Tracy said. "His breaking ball was great, his fastball had some angle and life to it. He worked both sides of the plate."
And the Cutters offense supported that stellar outing with a six-run third inning in which the offense sent 10-batters to the plate. It was the key part to an offensive onslaught that saw eight of the nine Williamsport hitters in the lineup record a hit. And the only one who didn't get a hit, Roman Quinn, was on base twice.
Perkins, who hit .351 in his final 32 games of the year with 24 RBIs, got the inning started with an RBI double. Serritella, who was named the team MVP prior to the game, followed with an RBI single. Serritella finished the year with a New York-Penn League-best 47 RBIs.
Three batters later Logan Moore added an RBI single with the bases loaded, and Kevin Quaranto followed with a two-run single off the wall in left-center field. Even Tyler Greene, who tied the Crosscutters record with his 85th strikeout of the season last night, added an RBI double in the inning.
"Whenever you score like that, it makes it so much easier to pitch and go out and throw strikes so you don't mess up what they did for you," Stefan said.
"They hit the ball, and they hit fastballs," Tracy said. "I know it's the last game of the year and I'm not going to look too much into it, but they continued to battle, run balls out, play the game the right way. That's what you expect as a professional."
Even in the clubhouse it was a team that seemed much more loose than it had been throughout its rough month of July. Serritella and Jiandido Tromp horsed around as guys packed up their stuff. Pitcher Chris Nichols expounded on his round of batting practice from earlier in the day.
This was a team that was having fun playing baseball.
"It's been long, it's been hard sometimes, but that's the grind of the season," Larry Greene Jr. said. "We're all talented in different ways. But we jelled good, and going out with a win was a good way to end."