Josh Stephen’s hit lifts Crosscutters in the 12th
By MITCH RUPERT
Josh Stephen didn’t try to do too much with the pitch. He just served it back from where it came.
The Williamsport Crosscutters left fielder delivered his second walk-off hit of the season, scoring Malvin Matos in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Cutters a 4-3, come-from-behind victory over the Lowell Spinners on Saturday night.
Williamsport improved to 2-2 in extra-inning games this year, both of which have been won at Bowman Field, and both of which have been ended with an RBI single by Stephen. The win last night was the Cutters’ ninth consecutive home victory.
“In a tough spot, I go to what’s comfortable for me, which has always been opposite field and up the middle,” Stephen said. “They did a good job of throwing me inside and in ABs one through four, they kept jamming me inside and I was a little late. Going into that last AB I was trying to go up the middle more than opposite field because I was getting jammed and he was throwing harder. It worked out this time.”
Stephen got the opportunity to win the game because Jake Scheiner all but carried the Williamsport offense through to extra innings. He scored all three of the Cutters’ runs through the first seven innings, twice after he doubled, and once when he homered to lead off the seventh inning.
That solo shot was the first pro home run for Scheiner, a fourth-round draft pick of the Phillies out of the University of Houston in last month’s draft. Moved to the leadoff spot with Nick Maton getting the night off, Scheiner doubled to lead off the third inning with Williamsport trailing 2-0. Greg Pickett came up with a two-out single to score Scheiner.
Adam Haseley drove in Scheiner in the fifth inning with a double of his own, his fourth of the season. Then Scheiner jumped all over an 0-1 pitch off Lowell reliever Jared Oliver in the bottom of the seventh inning, depositing the solo home run into the Spinners’ bullpen down the left-field line.
Scheiner’s big night came one night after Jhailyn Ortiz carried the Cutters to a victory by driving in three of the team’s four runs, including a solo home run. All nine Williamsport starters reached base safely last night, and seven of the nine batters recorded a hit.
Scheiner finished 3 for 5. Rodolfo Duran also had three hits.
“When you have a guy like Jake who goes out and has one of the best games I’ve ever seen, it makes us feel good and makes us want to compete and play better,” Stephen said. “I think it brings a team together. When we see other guys put together good ABs as a whole, it picks everyone up.”
The Williamsport bullpen put together 9 1/3 innings of one-run relief. Jhon Nunez, Connor Seabold, Gustavo Armas and Randy Alcantara combined to allow just five hits and strike out 12 in relief of starter Spencer Howard.
With a runner on third and two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Armas came up with a big strikeout of Marino Campana to stop the threat. Alcantara did the same thing in the 10th inning, getting a swinging strikeout of Brett Netzer with runners at the corners and two outs. Alcantara did it again in the 11th, striking out Yomar Valentin looking with the bases loaded.
Alcantara picked up his first win of the season by pitching three innings of shutout relief. Armas went four innings, striking out five.
“It’s pretty fun to watch them do what they do in those situations,” Stephen said. “It’s stressful out there, so to see them calm and see them get the strikeout, it puts us in a great spot. We’re all ready to go and the adrenaline is rushing then and we want to win the ballgame. It’s been fun to watch them do what they do.”
Williamsport finally broke through in the 12th inning to put the game away thanks to a Brian Mims leadoff single to right field. After a pair of ground outs, Ortiz walked to bring Stephen to the plate. His single up the middle easily scored pinch-runner Matos from second base, setting off a celebration on the infield.
Spencer Howard had an up-and-down second appearance for the Crosscutters. He didn’t factor into the decision, pitching 2 2/3 innings before being lifted by manager Pat Borders after reaching his pitch count.
The second-round pick out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo struggled to find the strike zone in the first inning, but was only a pitch away from getting out of the frame unscathed. Instead, Lowell third baseman Garrett Benge lifted a hanging 2-2 breaking ball to left field to score a pair of runners
Howard ended up throwing 32 pitches in that first inning. After allowing a leadoff double and a subsequent walk, Howard struck out back-to-back hitters to give himself a way out of the jam. That’s when Benge came through with a big early hit.
Howard had much better command of the strike zone in the second inning when catcher Rodolfo Duran barely had to move his mitt on every pitch to catch the ball. Howard finished with four strikeouts in his 2 2/3 innings.
“I think as the season goes on we’re getting better and better as a whole,” Stephen said. “I think the pitchers are going out there with no stress, just doing what they do, and I think it’s starting to show now.”