Standing near the exit of the Williamsport clubhouse, catcher Corey Bass quickly replayed the decisive seventh and eighth innings in his mind.
In both innings Thursday night, the Crosscutters were just one pitch from escaping damage. But in both innings that one pitch didn't come until the bulk of the damage had been done by Brooklyn's offense.
The Cyclones scored seven two-out runs in the seventh and eighth innings despite both times having two outs with nobody on base. It was too much for a percolating Williamsport offense to overcome. Brooklyn overcame its largest deficit of the season to salvage the finale of a three-game series, 9-4.
The Williamsport Crosscutters’ Samuel Hiciano points to the sky as he crosses home plate after hitting a two-run home run in the second inning against the Brooklyn Cyclones on Thursday night at Bowman Field. The Cutters fall, 9-4.
It wasn't just that Brooklyn did its damage with two outs last night, it was how quickly it did the damage. Of the six run-scoring hits in the two innings, five came on the first pitch of the at-bat. In fact, the Cyclones scored its five runs in the seventh inning on 17 pitches to six batters.
It all happened so quickly that Cutters manager Nelson Prada didn't have time to get a reliever warmed up quickly enough to help Matt Soren escape the jam until it was too late.
"It was a learning experience," Bass said. "The first five innings we were cruising. But we left a couple of pitches down the middle, we didn't get over a couple off-speed pitches. Those are things we can improve on."
"To me, (Soren) left too many pitches up. He needs to pitch down," Cutters manager Nelson Prada said. "He's a big boy and he can have an angle on the ball. The better angle he has, the tougher on the hitter it'll be. He was flat today. They could see the ball well and he left it up. He paid for it."
What Bass was replaying in his mind as he looked briefly to the muddied carpet of the clubhouse was what could have altered the inning. Soren was burned by a first-pitch, two-run triple by leadoff hitter Jonathan Clark, then by a first-pitch, RBI single by former 12th overall draft pick Gavin Cecchini, and then it was a first-pitch, RBI triple from L.J. Mazzilli.
It happened again in the eighth inning against Josh Warner when Anthony Chavez hit a first-pitch, RBI single and Clark followed with a first-pitch, RBI single.
"We tell the (pitchers) to just get ahead. A lot of times if you throw it down the middle, hitters will get themselves out," Bass said. "If you're too fine you end up messing up and you get behind and end up really getting hurt. I probably should have mixed in more off-speed right there, but it's a learning experience."
The late-innings, seven-run rally from Brooklyn prevented Williamsport from sweeping its third three-game series of the season. The Crosscutters held leads of 3-0 and 4-2 before the Cyclones eventually made their rally.
Brooklyn had been 4-15 when trailing after six innings before last night's game. And when it took the lead in the seventh, Brooklyn improved to 15-0 when leading after seven innings.
The implosion wasted a stellar start from the Cutters' Julio Reyes who finished five innings for just the third time this year. The 22-year-old Dominican allowed just one hit in those five innings, a two-run home run to James Roche.
Reyes spotted his fastball on both sides of the plate and threw both his slider and change-up for strikes. Both were pitches Bass said Reyes is still trying to get comfortable with.
"The slider and change-up are relatively new to him," Bass said. "He was throwing them for strikes, and if you have three pitches for strikes, it's tough to be beat."
"Reyes has been good overall for me," Prada said. "He was behind in the count only on a couple hitters and unfortunately it was the walk and the homer. He was ahead, he was mixing pitches and aggressive. The only two guys he pitched behind did the damage."
Williamsport broke out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Samuel Hiciano crushed a ball to left-center for a two-run home run. It was his second home run in as many days after coming back from a wrist injury which had sidelined him for three or four days.
It was Hiciano's third home run of the year.
The Cutters pushed the lead to 3-0 when Zach Green's two-out RBI single in the third inning scored Jairo Cardozo who had tripled. It was Green's 24th RBI of the season which tied Logan Pierce for the team lead.
After Roche's home run made it 3-2, Malquin Canelo (2 for 4) and Justin Parr hit back-to-back doubles to move the lead to 4-2. But Parr's RBI double was the last of the seven hits for the Cutters last night.
Williamsport finished the three-game series against the top pitching team in the New York-Penn League with 24 hits and 13 runs scored. It was just the improvement the team wanted to see after grinding through a two-week funk which had seen the team fall back to .500 for the first times since the second week of the season.
"It means the guys are swinging it a little better, seeing the ball a little better and the confidence is going up," Bass said. "Even though we do have a lot of strikeouts, it's the best pitching team in the league and you kind of expect that."
"Facing the best pitching team in the league, I think we handled it OK," Prada said. "The starter today had a 1.75 ERA with really good numbers and we scored four in the six innings he pitched. If we take two out of three from the next team coming in, it's going to be a positive series at home."
Following the game, Cutters reliever Lee Ridenhour was called up to Lakewood. Ridenhour, a right-hander, posted a 2.18 ERA in 11 appearances for Williamsport. He had allowed just one run over his last five appearances spanning 11 2/3 innings.