By MITCH RUPERT
The game could have gotten away from Bryan Sova quite easily. Standing on the lonely pitcher's mound in the middle of Bowman Field, he could see the two runners who could have tied Thursday's game in the eighth inning with one more hit.
Rhys Hoskins of Williamsport is tagged out at home by Jamestown catcher Kevin Krause on a squeeze play in the fourth inning Thursday at Bowman Field.
But the Williamsport side-arming right-hander didn't allow it to happen. Sova struck out Jamestown's David Andriese to end the eighth inning, and Calvin Rayburn worked a perfect ninth inning to lead the Crosscutters to a 4-2 win.
The Cutters swept the three-game series from Jamestown to move above .500 for the first time this season at 4-3. The big out from Sova also contributed to a stellar series of pitching from the Williamsport bullpen which allowed just five earned runs over 17 innings of work.
"It was a great series," Williamsport pitching coach Aaron Fultz said. "It couldn't have gone any better for the bullpen."
"At some point, it gets to be that you see one guy is stepping up, so now I have to step up," said Rayburn, who picked up his first save as a professional. "But at the same time, you're a team and the end goal is still to win the game. That's what we got tonight."
The Cutters' bullpen was forced to cover some unexpected innings Thursday night when starter Ricardo Pinto was lifted after just three innings after experiencing some tightness in his pitching arm.
For the third time in the three-game series, the bullpen had to cover at least five innings. Wednesday's six-inning effort came in an extra-inning game.
Last night, Ricky Bielski, Preston Packrall, Sova and Rayburn combined on six innings without allowing an earned run. The four relievers combined to strike out seven.
All five of the earned runs allowed by the bullpen came in Tuesday's 12-5 win over the Jammers with the game already in hand.
"Coach talks about it after every game, you throw well to help bail guys out," said Rayburn, a 16th-round draft pick out of Barry University. "That's what we're here for."
Sova's trouble came with Williamsport holding a 4-0 lead in the eighth inning last night. After a strikeout of clean-up hitter Michael Suchy, Sova gave up an RBI single to Kevin Krause and an RBI double to Chase Simpson.
But he rebounded, getting ahead of Andriese before putting him away on a 3-2 pitch to preserve the 4-2 lead.
"That last strikeout was huge," Fultz said. "Give up a hit and it's a tie ballgame. But that was able to keep us in control."
The Cutters' bullpen has been able to give teams different looks from each of its arms. Last night Sova and Rayburn gave the Jammers a sidearm look from the right side, but Rayburn was throwing about 10 mph harder than Sova.
In previous nights, they showcased hard-throwing left-hander Elniery Garcia as well as Joey DeNato, who doesn't throw as hard, but pounds the strikezone.
"We give some big time different looks," Rayburn said. "It's worked the last couple nights for us and we're winning. So if it isn't broke, don't fix it."
"It's a very pleasant experience to be able to show different looks from both the righties and the lefties instead of everyone being 88-90 and over the top," Fultz said. "We've got people coming from different directions and it's working for us."
It all backed a grind of an offensive performance from the Williamsport offense which saw the Crosscutters put together two-run innings in both the fourth and fifth. Emmanuel Marrero worked a walk on a great at-bat against former Phillies prospect Marek Minarik in the bottom of the fourth for a two-out, bases loaded walk to force in Jan Hernandez. Cord Sandberg extended his hitting streak to eight games over two seasons when he followed the walk with an RBI single to right field to scored Wilmer Oberto.
In the fifth inning, Oberto fouled off four pitches before crushing a two-run double into the wind in center field to score Aaron Brown (3 for 4) and Rhys Hoskins. The Williamsport offense had more chances, but stranded runners on base in seven of eight at-bats.
"For all of us it's just about getting comfortable with the atmosphere, the competition and the level of it all," Rayburn said. "I feel like once we all get together and know each other, we're going to be even better."