Cutters’ offense comes to live
The ball was a dribbler off Sam Dove’s bat, working its way toward Brooklyn second baseman L.J. Mazzilli at a snail’s pace. Mazzilli didn’t field it cleanly and Dove, Williamsport’s No. 2 hitter, had himself an infield single.
Normally a hit like that wouldn’t draw much attention, especially with two outs in the third inning. But when Andrew Knapp followed with a flared single to left and Zach Green crushed a change-up to left-center for a three-run homer, Dove’s infield single became exponentially more important.
The two-out, three-run rally was a part of the Crosscutters’ early offensive explosion Wednesday night at Bowman Field. For only the second time since July 15, Williamsport scored more than four runs, as it finished with eight against the New York-Penn League’s top pitching staff in an 8-6 win over Brooklyn.
“We haven’t done that recently. A lot of things can happen with two outs,” Dove said. “It’s a matter of me and Knapp not giving up our at-bats and then Zach smoking one. It’s nice to be able to do that. It’s what we’re supposed to do at the top of the lineup to let the guys behind us drive us in.”
Williamsport pounded out 11 hits and have 18 in two games against Brooklyn, which entered Wednesday’s game with a league-best 2.54 ERA. But the Cutters’ offense teed off on Cyclones starter Dario Alvarez and reliever Darwin Frias who have two of the three highest ERAs on the Cyclones’ staff.
The Crosscutters scored once in the second on back-to-back hits from Green and Dylan Cozens to lead off the inning. Cozens’ hit was an RBI double off the right-center field fence. It was his 12th double and 18th RBI of the season. He’s also hitting .296 in his last 10 games.
The three-run, two-out rally in the third was enough to drive Alvarez out of the game. Dove’s infield single came on an 0-2 pitch. Knapp’s single to left was a 1-0 jam shot into shallow left. Green then tattooed a 1-1 change-up over the left-center field fence for his sixth home run of the year.
His 23 extra-base hits this year lead the New York-Penn League. Alvarez allowed four earned runs in three innings as his ERA ballooned to 5.01.
“He hung a change-up in the zone and I put a good swing on it,” said Green, whose 23 RBIs is just one behind Logan Pierce for the team lead. “It’s always good to get base hits when you’re struggling, whether it’s off-speed or a fastball. But something I’m working on is trying to hit fastballs in my zone early in the count.”
Williamsport added three more against Frias in the bottom of the fourth. Samuel Hiciano hit his second home run of the season, a one-out solo shot to left field. Malquin Canelo, who reached on a walk and stole one of his two bases of the night, then scored on a throwing error by Cyclones shortstop Gavin Cecchini with two outs.
Knapp followed with a double to right-center to score Dove and give Williamsport a 7-1 lead. It was the first time the Crosscutters have scored at least seven runs in a game since July 14 at Aberdeen.
“I think we’ve been working on our approach a lot. Guys are just sticking with that approach and battling more for the team,” Dove said. “We’re starting to string a couple hits together finally. It seemed like for a while when we did hit the ball hard they caught it, or we’d get a base hit with two outs and we couldn’t get them in. Tonight we have a lot of two out hits, and that’s usually what wins ball games.”
Williamsport struggled the rest of the way, though, striking out eight times over their final four at-bats. The Cutters added a final insurance run in the seventh with a Pierce RBI double which came with two outs and two batters after Justin Parr tripled.
The Cutters struck out 12 times last night and have struck out 24 times in the first two games of the three-game series with Brooklyn. Half of the outs they’ve recorded in the series have come by strikeout.
Frias, who allowed four runs in four innings of relief to push his ERA to 6.52, struck out nine last night.
“Some of the guys in the pen were pretty good for (Brooklyn), but that’s something we’re working on is to cut the strikeouts down,” said Green, whose 49 strikeouts are the second-most in the NYPL. “It could be a combination of things. I don’t want to speak for the guys, but as a team it’s something we’re trying to work on.”
“For me, their pitch sequences were different,” said Dove, who struck out three times. “I think we’re all just looking for a great pitch to hit and they’re starting off-speed when we’re looking fastball and maybe we get beat at the end. It’s definitely good to cut down on it, but I don’t think it’s that big of a concern.”
Yacksel Rios went a season-high 5 2/3 innings for the Cutters to earn his second win. He allowed three runs and four hits.
Chris Nichols struck out leadoff hitter Patrick Biondi, representing the tying run, in the top of the ninth to end the game.
The Cutters have won back-to-back games to remain five games back in the Pinckney Division and two games behind Lowell in the Wild Card. Brooklyn has lost back-to-back games after coming to Williamsport riding a five-game winning streak.