Williamsport's playoff chances are dead. They have been for much of the week. But Nelson Prada still has the Crosscutters coming to the ballpark with a purpose.
Thanks to a doubleheader split against Batavia on Thursday night at Bowman Field, Williamsport can eliminate the Muckdogs from division championship contention with a win tonight. It's been the mantra Prada has preached to the Cutters all week, that there is still something to play for.
There was no sulking after losing the first game last night, 7-5, in the completion of a game suspended in the first week of the season. Williamsport responded with good situational hitting in beating one of Batavia's best pitchers in the nightcap, 6-5.
Williamsport Crosscutters second baseman Andrew Pullin tries to field a ground ball in the sixth inning on Thursday night at Bowman Field.
"We want to finish strong," Prada said. "We want to keep the guys strong in their mind to keep them strong and working for something every day. The first goal was to beat State College so they couldn't clinch the division and we beat them two of three so they didn't clinch in front of us. And even if we don't eliminate (Batavia) we've put them in a bad situation."
When the suspended game began in the bottom of the sixth with a 3-3 tie, Zach Green quickly broke the tie, hitting a two-run home run to left field off the end of the bat for a 5-3 Crosscutters lead. It was Green's 12th home run of the season which ties him with Cody Overbeck and leaves him one behind Walter Young for most home runs in a season for the Crosscutters.
Jon Musser couldn't hold the lead, though. The pitcher who wasn't on the Crosscutters' roster when the game started June 25, surrendered three runs and six hits in two innings, including a titanic two-run home run to Scott Carcase in the eighth inning which gave Batavia a 6-5 lead.
There was no sulking over the loss. Prada didn't hold any kind of meeting after the first game, which was delayed more than an hour by rain prior to the bottom of the ninth inning. Instead, he let his players just go out and play.
They responded with six runs and six hits against Ryan Newell who entered with a 1.84 ERA this season for the Muckdogs. Trailing 1-0 in the third inning with two outs, Malquin Canelo singled and Dylan Cozens walked ahead of Green's RBI single to left field.
Green's 40 RBIs this year are second-most in the New York-Penn League behind State College's David Washington (48).
Andrew Knapp followed Green with an RBI double off the wall in left field to drive in Cozens before consecutive throwing errors from Newell and shortstop Javier Lopez gave Williamsport four two-out runs and a 4-1 lead.
"At some point I said we're striking out too much and we've been talking to the guys about it," Prada said. "The guys are letting the ball travel more and throwing their hands at it. Good things happen when you put the ball in play."
Julio Reyes battled early command issues but found a way to gut his way through five innings to pick up his second win of the season. Reyes allowed five hits and three runs and struck out five.
Through three innings, the 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic had thrown just half his pitches for strikes. But he had allowed just three hits and one run thanks to a first-inning double play and a tremendous running catch in the right-center field gap by Cozens.
Reyes retired the side in order for the first time in the fourth inning before getting into trouble again in the fifth. But Reyes struck out clean-up hitter Felix Munoz to end the inning. He ended up throwing 50 of his 90 pitches for strikes.
"The ball was staying up and running out on him. He said he was trying to pitch inside but the ball was running too much," Prada said. "One thing is he was moving his lower body too fast, so his arm is not catching his body. (Pitching coach Les Lancaster) talked to him about it and he made the adjustment to get through the fifth."
Trailing by three heading into the seventh, Batavia scored two runs thanks to a J.T. Riddle RBI double and a balk on Keivi Rojas which scored another run. But Rojas caught a comebacker to end the game and secure his second save of the year.