Crosscutters’ 7-run loss is 2nd worst of this season

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette The Williamsport Crosscutters’ Madison Stokes is tagged out by West Virginia catcher Zach Susi at home on a double by Edwin Rodriguez in the fourth inning on Friday at Bowman Field.

Abdallah Aris had nearly wiggled his way out of a jam he didn’t make. With two strikes on West Virginia’s Mike Gretler and the bases loaded, the Williamsport reliever could see his way out of an eighth-inning jam which would keep the Crosscutters in the game.

Gretler had other plans. The third baseman, who made a pair of stellar defensive plays, ripped the ninth pitch of the at-bat to the left-center field gap, scoring all three runs and putting Friday’s game at Bowman Field on ice.

On a night where the benches emptied and Williamsport manager Pat Borders had to be forcibly restrained by the team’s other coaches, the Cutters lost for the fourth consecutive night. The 8-1 loss last night was their second-worst loss of the season, bested only by Thursday’s 13-5 loss to Batavia.

The Williamsport offense collected nine hits last night and struck out only twice. But it ran itself out of potentially big innings twice, and West Virginia’s Raul Siri hit a pair of solo home runs as the Cutters lost for the 14th time in 19 July games.

“You see a team who lost several games in a row and you’d think it’d be dismal, but they’re fairly upbeat,” Borders said. “They played with intensity. They played with some direction. They are not playing dead. They’re playing with desire. I can’t get mad at them. They’re doing everything correct. We’re just not winning.”

The specifics of the game were overshadowed by both benches and bullpens emptying following the completion of the sixth inning. West Virginia reliever Ryan Valdes struck out Williamsport’s Seth Lancaster on a 3-2 pitch with runners on second and third. Valdes pounded his hand into his glove in celebration a couple times as he walked off the mound.

He and Lancaster traded some words as Valdes walked off the field and Lancaster placed his batting gloves in his helmet. Home plate umpire James Jean coaxed Lancaster toward the field as the chatter died down. But as Williamsport reliever Austin Ross came out to warm up, Borders walked across the field toward the West Virginia dugout.

He was met by West Virginia manager Kieran Mattison as he gestured toward the Black Bears’ dugout. Players and coaches from West Virginia exited their bench. Quickly, players from Williamsport followed their manager and pitchers raced toward the West Virginia on-deck circle from the bullpen.

No punches were thrown as the gathering of the two teams met, but all of a sudden, Borders pushed toward the West Virginia players and coaches. He was pushed back by Mattison and Williamsport hitting coach Christian Marrero before again pushing toward the crowd of West Virginia players. Marrero, pitching coach Hector Berrios and Phillies roving infield instructor Chris Truby all pushed Borders toward the Williamsport dugout.

The gathering garnered no ejections from the two umpires. Borders shrugged off the incident and gave no indication of what set him off. Borders and Mattison met behind the plate after the game and shook hands after a brief discussion. Borders said the dust-up had nothing to do with the frustrations of a trying few weeks for the Cutters.

“That would have happened at any time,” Borders said. “It can happen and spark up at any time. That’s how I see it.”

Williamsport put runners on base last night, 16 of them to be exact. But the Cutters were just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.

They were set up for a big inning in the first when Ben Aklinski reached on an infield and advanced to second on a throwing error. Rafael Marchan’s single put runners on the corners. But on a ball in the dirt, Marchan broke for second base and was thrown out by West Virginia catch Zach Susi. Aklinski broke for the plate on the throw to second and was able to score. Madison Stokes then walked, but was thrown out trying to steal second.

In the fourth inning, Stokes ran through Borders’ stop sign at third base on Edwin Rodriguez’s double to left field. Stokes tried to jump over Susi’s tag, but was called out.

“The first inning, that’s a ball in the dirt and I can’t get upset about that because we want guys to be aggressive,” Marchan said. “First, (Susi) made a good pick and we got hung up in the middle. That was a big blow, but you can’t throw any darts at Marchan for being aggressive on a ball in the dirt.

“Now Stokes, that was a mistake. He didn’t pick me up. I was trying to get his attention and he was looking at the base and ran up on me. He’ll learn from it and that’s easy to correct.”

Williamsport starting pitcher Manuel Silva battled through control issues, stranding runners in three of the 4 2/3 innings he pitched. But twice he was touched for solo home run’s by Siri, once in the second and third innings, which helped West Virginia jump out to a 3-1 lead.

“The scoreboard doesn’t reflect it, but the general atmosphere in the dugout seemed good to me and that’s what I’m concerned with,” Borders said. “They’re doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re practicing and working. They’re going with a plan to hit or pitch. They may not be accomplishing it, but they’re doing what they need to do to get better.”