Tenth-inning HR brings series sweep

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Will Stewart pitches for the Crosscutters Sunday vs. Lowell.

Lowell catcher Samuel Miranda took a giant step to his right to set up way off the outside corner of the plate. He held his mitt in front of his chest expecting a fastball.

When Spinners teammate Juan Florentino re­leased the baseball, it wasn’t going toward Miran­da. Instead, it leaked back toward the inner-half of the plate.

Williamsport’s Cole Stobbe pounced on the mistake, launching the baseball deep into the twilight, landing beyond the left-field wall in the Lowell bullpen for a walk-off home run. Stobbe’s first career walk-off home run gave the Crosscutters a 6-5, 10-inning win over Lowell and a sweep of their three-game series.

It was the first walk-off home run for Williamsport since Jan Hernandez was credited with one in a bizarre play on Aug. 10, 2015. The win also put the Cutters into first place in the Pinckney Division. They’re in a virtual tie with Mahoning Valley, State College and West Virginia, but are percentage points ahead of all three teams. Williamsport begins a three-game series with State College today at Bowman Field.

Williamsport won at home last night for the sixth consecutive time and the 10th time in its last 11 games.

“You ride a good wave as long as you can,” Cutters manager Pat Bor­ders said. “Right now they all seem to be swinging well. The personality of this team seems to be one person will pick up another person.”

“It’s always fun celebrating a walk-off,” second baseman Jake Scheiner said. “A couple people missed (Stobbe) with the Gatorade. It didn’t even get on Stobbe. It got on everyone else but the guy who hit the home run. But it’s fun.”

Williamsport had to overcome a pair of three-run deficits and then the disappointment of a blown save in the ninth inning to pick up the win. But the gutsy nature of this team shone through on a perfect summer evening which saw the Cutters have to win in extra innings for the second consecutive night.

“I think winning two extra-inning games back-to-back shows we don’t stop playing until the end,” Stobbe said. “Until that last out is made, we’re not going to give up. We’re a resilient team.”

Williamsport’s offense lacked punch until it finally chased Lowell starter Dakota Smith from the game in the sixth inning. That’s when Austin Listi finally got the Cutters on the board with a two-out, two-strike single to score Greg Pickett.

But the Cutters really rallied in the seventh, sending eight batters to the plate with half of them scoring. Stobbe had a big hit that inning when he singled up the middle with two outs to score Scheiner from third and get the Cutters within 4-3.

Three pitches later, Josh Steph­en — who had Saturday’s walk-off hit — flipped a ball into right field. As Spinners right fielder Juan Barriento reached for it, the ball got under his glove and went all the way to the wall. Stephen’s two-run triple gave Williamsport its first lead.

“I think that’s big for me to put the ball in play with two strikes and not give up at-bats swinging at bad pitches,” said Stobbe, who had the first three-hit game of the season yesterday and the second of his career. “That led to Josh’s two-run triple which put us ahead and was huge.”

“I thought he made an adjustment on that swing and made a correction. That was a good sign,” Borders said of Stobbe, who was hitting .189 coming into the game. “I don’t know if that’s the turning point for him. But he’s progressively stair-stepping up to that being his normal swing.”

Lowell scored a run in the top of the ninth inning of Luis Ramirez when it was down to its last out. Barriento, who homered earlier, hit a rocket off Ramirez’s leg to score Yoan Aybar and tie the game.

It set the stage for Stobbe’s 10th-inning at-bat. He found himself down in the count 0-2 after Florentino dropped in two sliders for strikes. But then Florentino missed his spot on the fastball by more than a foot and Stobbe didn’t miss it.

His sixth home run of the season leads the New York-Penn League. His 15 RBIs are third in the league.

“You have to hit off the fastball, so I think you’re always looking for fastball then adjusting to those other off-speed pitches,” Stobbe said. “I was looking for fastball and it leaked over the plate and I caught a good barrel.”

“He’s got a nice swing and deceptive power for his size,” Borders said. “He did that in spring training and extended spring training. He hit probably close to 10 home runs over that time.”

Will Stewart pitched 5 1/3 quality innings for the Cutters, getting a no-decision. Two of the three runs he allowed scored after he had left the game.

The left-hander settled in nicely after the first two batters reached in the first inning. He picked up his first of five strikeouts and rolled a double play ball to escape the jam. He finished his outing with nine groundball outs.

Kyle Dohy anchored the 4 2/3 innings thrown by the Williamsport bullpen with a scoreless 10th inning to pick up his first professional win.

“I think (Stewart) changes speeds and locates his fastball well and he has a plan out there,” Borders said. “He’s now just throwing the ball, he always has a plan.”