Justin Parr and Nelson Prada agreed it's probably too early to start paying attention to where the Williamsport Crosscutters are in the Pinckney Division standings, but it was tough to ignore the damage of Saturday night's loss to Jamestown.
The 3-0 setback in which Williamsport recorded just three hits, put the Crosscutters five games behind Jamestown in the division standings. But it wasn't so much that Williamsport lost last night at Bowman Field which concerned Prada. More concerning was how the Cutters lost for the third time in four games.
Williamsport's offense missed on fastballs all night, striking out 12 times and advancing just two runners to second base. Despite another strong performance from the Cutters' pitching staff, the offense couldn't find a spark to back it up.
Mountain Man from the cable TV?show “Duck Dynasty”?signs for Lee Ridenhour during his appearance Saturday at Bowman Field.
"We didn't come prepared to play the game," Prada said. "We were flat the whole game. They throw a fastball and we can't hit it and they threw a fastball the whole game."
Williamsport didn't collect its first hit until Parr singled up the middle with two outs in the sixth inning. In fact, Parr, who was the Big 10 Player of the Year for Illinois this spring, had two of the Cutters' three hits.
The Crosscutters came in struggling against lefties this year, hitting 15 points worse than against righties, and it didn't get much better against Jammers starter Cody Dickson. The fourth-round pick out of Sam Houston State in last month's draft didn't allow a hit in his five innings.
With a fastball sitting around 93 mph and an above average breaking ball, Dickson faced the minimum of 15 batters in his five innings. His only blemish was a leadoff walk to Jiandido Tromp in the fourth inning which was quickly erased on a double play ball off the bat of Malquin Canelo.
Of his five strikeouts, four were on fastballs. Williamsport hasn't scored at least four runs in a game since July 17.
"I think that's probably the most frustrating thing right now because it's not like we're getting beat with really good pitching," Parr said. "They're just blowing fastballs by us early in the count, late in the count. They're challenging us with fastballs and we're not catching up."
It didn't get any better against reliever Henry Hirsch, who struck out five in three innings of relief. Brett McKinney, who picked up his fourth save, struck out two in the ninth inning.
It came a night after striking out nine times in a 4-3 loss to the Jammers. Jamestown is 4-1 against the Cutters this year and its 25 wins are second-most in the league behind only Tri-City's 26.
"We're playing a good club. I'm not saying we can't beat good club, but we have to find a way to beat good clubs," Prada said. "That's the type of club we have to beat if we want to contend."
Despite the two-game sweep at the hands of Jamestown, Williamsport is still tied for second place in the Pinckney Division with State College. The Cutters are also tied with State College for second place in the wild card standings just 1 1/2 games behind Lowell.
"Right now it still is a little too early to worry about that," Parr said. "Right now we're just trying to play good, fundamental baseball and take care of what we can take care of. Just play the game, hit the ball hard and see what happens."
Jamestown scored all three of its runs against Cutters starting pitcher Julio Reyes in the top of the fourth inning. Jammers catcher Jin-De Jhang, the No. 18 prospect in the Pirates system according to MLB.com, drove in the first run with the first of his two doubles.
After a wild pitch moved Jhang to third, a pop up in shallow center field fell between second baseman Sam Dove, Tromp in center field and right fielder Dylan Cozens because all three had a long way to go for the ball with the infield playing in. It allowed Jhang to score, giving Jamestown a 2-0 lead.
The Jammers added a third run on an RBI groundout by Edwin Espinal on what would have been a likely inning-ending double play ball had the Jammers not sent the runner at first to second on the pitch.
The three runs might as well have been 300 with as much as Williamsport's offense struggled last night. The Cutters sent just three batters to the plate in seven of nine innings, and it sent the tying run to the plate only once.
After Parr singled with two outs in the sixth, Tromp followed with a double to put runners on second and third. But Canelo struck out on a fastball up in the zone to end the threat. Parr led off the ninth inning with a single, but never advanced to second base.
"When Zach Green and Cozens are getting beat by fastballs, that worries you a little bit," Prada said. "(Today) we're not going to grab a bat until 5:05. We worked hard all week, so (today) we're going to take it easy. The next day we'll see how it goes. If I think they need another day, we'll give them another day to rest. We'll try to take these next two days to calm down a bit."
"We have a lot of hard-working guys and we have a good club," Parr said. "Right now things aren't clicking like they were at the start of the year. We just have to get back in the right groove because right now we're just not in a good rhythm, but we have the pieces to be in a good rhythm."