Crosscutters again can’t hold lead in loss

For a second, Jesse Wilkening looked away. Then he shrugged his shoulders quickly.

“It probably wasn’t the best pitch call in the first place,” the Williamsport Crosscutters’ catcher said after Friday night’s 3-2 loss to Hudson Valley.

It was only the second pitch reliever Keylan Killgore had thrown since Cutters manager Pat Borders brought him into the game in a tight spot in the eighth inning. But it was the one which gave the Renegades the victory in the opener of a three-game series at Bowman Field.

It was a fastball on a 1-0 count which caught just a little bit too much of the plate to Hudson Valley three-hole hitter Chris Betts. He hammered it into the right-center field gap to the wall to easily score Ford Proctor from second base.

It was the decisive run as Williamsport lost at home for the 11th time in its last 14 home games.

“I probably should have called the slider there,” said Wilkening, who was 1 for 3 with an RBI single. “But yeah, it just missed over the plate a little bit.”

It’s hard to throw blame Killgore’s way for last night’s loss. It was the first inherited runner he’s allowed to score this season. He’s 4 for 4 in save situations. And he hasn’t been charged with a run since his professional debut on July 3 against Auburn.

He entered last night with one out in the eighth inning and runner on second base because of those numbers. He’s been the most reliable arm in a Cutters bullpen which has faltered for much of the season. After Rafael Carvajal allowed a leadoff single and fielded a comebacker for the first out, Borders went to the 17th-round draft pick out of Wichita State.

His first pitch missed the strikezone before the 1-0 fastball caught too much of the plate. Betts, a 2015 second-round pick, didn’t miss it. It was the left-hand hitter’s New York-Penn League leading 27th RBI of the season.

“It’s baseball,” Wilkening said. “It’s bound to happen.”

The fact the game, to that point, was still tied at all was a minor miracle in and of itself. Williamsport should have had a run in the bottom of the fifth inning when Madison Stokes (3 for 4, two doubles) sent a high fly ball to right-center field with two outs. Hudson Valley center fielder Tanner Dodson never saw the ball and had his arms stretched out to his side.

Williamsport runner Ben Aklinski lost track of the number of outs and was waiting at second base to see if the ball would be caught instead of running it out with two outs. When the ball finally fell to the grass, Aklinski charged into third and was waved home but was thrown out easily at the plate.

Then in the top of the sixth inning, the Renegades’ Marvin Malone ripped a two-out double into the right-field corner. It appeared Jacson McGowan would score easily from first, but Cutters second baseman Brayan Gonzalez caught the relay throw about 130 feet from the plate and fired an absolute missile to the plate to Wilkening to tag out McGowan and end the inning.

“He’s a freak. He’s got an absolute cannon,” Wilkening said of Gonzalez. “So that’s exactly what I expected would happen. He put it right in the right spot. A guy like him is so good that he trusts himself and then he threw it really hard at me. It was a great throw.”

The Williamsport offense, which scored 21 runs in a series win at Vermont this week, got off to a good start last night. Wilkening delivered a clutch two-out single to right field to score Danny Mayer in the second inning. Keudy Bocio followed two pitches later with a flared single to right field to score Wilkening.

But that was all the offense the Cutters could muster. Only three other runners reached second base over the final seven innings, and Hudson Valley pitchers faced just one batter over the minimum for the final four innings.

“Runs come in streaks,” Wilkening said. “You get hot and then you don’t.”

Manuel Silva took a tough luck no-decision last night, allowing two runs over five innings. He struck out five and walked two. He allowed both runs in the third inning.

Silva is still looking for his first win despite posting a 2.97 ERA this season. The 19-year-old has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his seven starts.

“He commanded well down in the zone. He trusted his pitches and threw the slider very effectively,” Wilkening said. “We want to establish the fastball early and then get to the off-speed and get them off-balance. And when he was throwing that slider, it was very effective because he wasn’t throwing it all over the place. It was right where he wanted it to be.”