Pickett helps Cutters beat Spikes

STATE COLLEGE – Prior to the start of the Williamsport Crosscutters’ series in West Virginia on Sunday, Greg Pickett had a conversation with Pat Borders about changing his approach at the plate. Borders essentially wanted the first baseman to quit thinking about mechanics and think about hitting the baseball in a certain spot.

That night, Pickett hit a home run.

That momentum has carried into the final games of the season for Pickett, and in the Cutters’ 5-2 win over State College on Wednesday night, the former eighth-round pick recorded three hits and drove in two runs. His swings looked more confident and since that conversation he’s put the barrel of his bat on the ball more times than not.

“I guess better late than never,” Pickett said after Williamsport’s penultimate game of the season at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. “It’s been a lot easier to lay off bad pitches and my swing feels a lot faster than it has all season.”

Pickett started the season on fire, hitting .368 over his first 19 games as he utilized the entire field. He still had some swing-and-miss tendencies which followed him all summer, but until the last four games, he hasn’t matched that hot start.

But since his talk with Borders, he’s 6 for 16 and has walked four times against just one strikeout. In Wednesday’s win, Pickett was 3 for 3, drove in the Cutters’ first two runs with two-out singles, and walked in his fourth plate appearance.

“The last few games I’ve been feeling great,” Pickett said. “That’s the way I should have been thinking in a game all the time. But sometimes it’s not that easy. You get in your own head. It’s a different way to think about things. It was good to see the results right away.”

“I just told him a couple things I did that helped me not worry about too much with mechanics and getting yourself bogged down with thinking too much,” Borders said. “You don’t have time to think. It’s a reaction game. So set your mind a certain way and approach that at-bat. It clicked for him.”

Pickett smoked the first pitch he saw in the first inning back through the middle with 105 mph exit velocity for a single which scored Josh Stephen (2 for 5, two runs) from second. In the third inning, he flipped a duck snort flare down the right-field line which scored Stephen again from second base to give the Cutters a 2-0 lead.

After State College tied the game with a two-run, two-out rally in the fourth, Williamsport went ahead for good in the seventh on a throwing error by the Spikes’ Alex Fagalde. With runners at first and second and nobody out, Nick Maton put down a sacrifice bunt. Fagalde tried to get the lead runner at third, but threw the ball into left field.

Rodolfo Duran (2 for 4) and Jesus Azuaje (2 for 4) both scored on the play.

“You just got to keep swinging and good things like that will happen,” Pickett said.

The Cutters added a third run on a Yahir Gurrola RBI single, and that three-run rally was more than enough to hand Kyle Young his team-leading seventh win of the season. It’s the second-most wins for the Cutters since 2011, behind only Mitch Gueller’s team-record 10 wins in 2015.

The 7-foot tall left-hander dazzled in his final start. He painted corners, used a steady stream of breaking balls, and worked out of most every jam he found himself in over six innings. Young threw 60 of his 84 pitches (71.4 percent) for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 26 batters he faced and struck out six batters.

“When he gains some strength and maturity physically — because he’s only 19-years-old — he’s already a refined pitcher,” Borders said. “If he gets just a little more velocity, my goodness he’ll be good.”

Young was easily the Cutters’ most consistent starting pitcher throughout the season. Last night was the 11th time in 13 starts this season in which Young has allowed two earned runs or fewer in a game. His 2.77 ERA is the second-best among starting pitchers for the Cutters this year, trailing only Luis Carrasco, who made just six starts for Williamsport before being promoted to Lakewood.

His 1.12 WHIP is fourth-best on the team and his 72 strikeouts are second-best behind only Julian Garcia. And his 15 walks were the fewest by a Cutters’ starting pitcher who made at least eight starts.

“He’s very mature as a kid, too. He’s got like an older person’s mind in his body. He handles himself really well,” Borders said. “He’s still a kid. But the way he handles things, he’s very impressive. They got a steal of a draft pick in him. I don’t know what they gave him, but whatever they did, that was a good pick for us. I don’t know how much money they gave him, but it doesn’t matter. It was worth it.”