It wasn't Jiandido Tromp's two-run home run which seemed to awaken the Williamsport offense Saturday night. It wasn't Emmanuel Marrero's RBI double, either.
No, it was a pair of hits which didn't leave the infield which seemed to relax the Crosscutters in their 5-1 win over Aberdeen at Bowman Field. And it was just as manager Shawn Williams had predicted a night earlier after one of the more frustrating offensive performances of the year for Williamsport.
Tromp and Aaron Brown reached base on a pair of infield singles in the fourth inning. Three batters later Wilson Garcia rolled a two-run single into left field to give Williamsport a lead it never relinquished to snap a four-game losing streak.
Jiandido Tromp (23) is congratulated by Derek Campbell, second from right, after he and Aaron Brown scored on a bases-loaded single by Wilson Garcia in the fourth inning Saturday at Bowman Field.
Williamsport moved to within three games of Connecticut and Brooklyn in the wild card race with the win with 27 games to play.
"You never know what's going to start an inning or swing the momentum your way," Brown said. "We were able to capitalize on that and were able to take that lead and extend it later in the game. That was the difference-maker, and we kept pitching well."
It was finally enough offense to back up another dazzling effort from a Williamsport starting pitcher as David Whitehead improved to 3-3 with six innings of four-hit baseball. The only run the big right-hander allowed was unearned as Aberdeen capitalized on a pair of first-inning errors with a sacrifice fly.
The two runs in the fourth inning from the Cutters' offense must have seemed like 20. It was only the second multiple-run inning of the homestand for Williamsport, who were just swept in a three-game series by Connecticut.
It allowed Whitehead to pitch with more confidence. Having already established his fastball the first time through the IronBirds' order, Whitehead was able to use that sinker to get ahead in counts and put hitters away with a breaking ball the second time through the order.
It was a conscious effort by the 22-year old to better utilize his breaking ball. He's spent the majority of his time establishing the fastball which Williams said is good enough that he can command the game with it. But the addition of his curveball turned a really good outing into a stellar one last night.
Whitehead struck out five batter in six innings and didn't allow a walk. He's struck out 31 batters and walked just eight in 53 innings with the Cutters.
"I had a decent amount of success with the fastball, but you can't ride that our forever," Whitehead said. "One of the things we've been talking abut is throwing better curveballs and more quality strikes with it, so it was a good opportunity to work on it."
"You know exactly what you're going to get from David every time. He's going to give you six strong innings," Williams said. "He's very consistent. He's right there every single time out."
Whitehead's main concern was harnessing the momentum the offense created with Garcia's two-run single in the fourth inning. And he tossed up a shutdown inning in the top of the fifth after Garcia's hit. He posted another zero in the sixth after Tromp added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth with a two-run home run, his 10th of the season. And Edubray Ramos kept the momentum rolling with a clean seventh inning following Marrero's RBI double in the sixth.
It was a momentum the Cutters never let go of following the run-scoring hit from Garcia (3 for 4, 2 RBIs). Instead, it added on offensively by adding some big blasts. Tromp's home run came on a two-strike hanging breaking ball which he launched over the left-field fence. Aberdeen left fielder Jamill Moquette could only turn and watch the belted baseball.
All 10 of Tromp's home runs have come at Bowman Field this year. He's also just three home runs behind the single-season franchise record set by Zach Green last year and Walter Young in 2001.
"That was the big time hit of the night," Brown said. "That was the one that separated us from the one run (Aberdeen) scored in the first inning."
"It was those first couple of hits that helped everybody relax. You could tell in their at-bats from then on," Williams said. "Everybody was more back to how they were before, being relaxed and having good at-bats. Even some of the outs we hit hard."
It was a stark contrast to the prior 10 days when only five of the 15 position players currently on the roster had a batting average north of the Mendoza line. Seven of the nine batters in the lineup last night reached base, and six of them did it with hits.
"It was a much-needed win, and we're feeling good and having a lot of fun," Brown said. "That's the biggest thing for us is to keep playing hard and have a lot of fun."
"We've had our ups and downs, especially in the past week. But that's the way we've been all year," Whitehead said. "Hopefully we get a nice little win streak and put ourselves in position to make the playoffs."