Cutters drop series opener with Batavia in 10 innings

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Above, Williamsport second baseman Seth Lancaster tags out Batavia’s Brayan Hernandez at second base on a attempted steal in the sixth inning during Tuesday’s game at Bowman Field.

Seth Lancaster coiled his body like a spring, waiting for the moment to hurl himself into the air. His gloved left hand stretched for the baseball floating through the thick summer air.

Had the Williamsport Crosscutters’ second baseman been an inch or two taller, he probably catches the Texas-league single Tuesday night at Bowman Field. Instead, it wafted over his glove into right-center field and two runs scored.

Williamsport dropped the opener of a three-game series with Batavia, 7-5, in 10 innings last night. It fell to 0-3 in extra-inning games and lost for the 11th time in 16 July games.

After not having a hit for the first seven innings, Williamsport rallied for three runs in its final two at-bats to tie the game and force extra innings. But Muckdogs second baseman Bubba Hollins singled over Lancaster’s glove to drive in a pair of runs and Denis Karas hit a two-run home run in the 10th to hand Batavia the win.

“Baseball’s a funny game. Sometimes those fall through,” said Lancaster, who was 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI in the loss. “You just try to keep a level head and keep the same attitude day in and day out and come to work every day. Whatever happens is going to happen.”

Hollins was the reason the game even reached extra innings at all in the bottom of the ninth inning. It appeared as though Williamsport’s Jonathan Guzman had won the game for the Cutters when he rolled a ground ball up the middle with two outs, the bases loaded and the Cutters trailing by a run.

Hollins, the son of former Phillies third baseman and current Phillies scout Dave Hollins, dove full extension up the middle and gloved the ground ball. He nearly threw out Guzman at first base, but Guzman beat it out allowing Danny Mayer to score the tying run. Two pitches later Ben Aklinski lost a race to the bag with Batavia pitcher Elkin Alcala on a ground ball to first base to strand the winning run at third base.

Williamsport has just six wins in its last 20 games. In those 14 losses, the Cutters have lost by an average of just 2.71 runs per game. After last night, Williamsport is 6-12 in games decided by two runs or fewer.

“We know we’ve got a good team,” Lancaster said. “We’ve got a bunch of good guys. Everybody likes to come to the park every day and do their work. We’ll come through. It’s a long season. We’re not going to give up.”

Last night was perfect proof this is a Williamsport team which doesn’t give up. Batavia starting pitcher Chris Vallimont and reliever Manny Rodriguez combined to throw seven innings of no-hit baseball to start the game. After Jesus Henriquez and Lancaster walked in the second inning, Williamsport didn’t have a baserunner until catcher Jesse Wilkening was hit in the head by a pitch by Muckdogs reliever Zach Wolf on the first pitch of the eighth inning.

Vallimont and Rodriguez combined to retire 16 in a row between the second and seventh innings. But once Wilkening broke the seal to start the eighth with Batavia leading 3-0, the Cutters put the first three on base to start the eighth inning.

Lancaster launched a double to the right-center field gap which traveled 374 feet for the Cutters’ first hit, scoring pinch-runner Rafael Marchan from first. Four batters later Madison Stokes flared a single to center field to score Lancaster and cut the Muckdogs’ lead to 3-2.

“(Vallimont and Rodriguez) were locating all their pitches. Slider, change-up, fastball, it didn’t matter,” Lancaster said. “We were battling and some things didn’t go our way. Stokes hit three or four balls hard and (Guzman) hit some hard. We just had to grind through it and we finally came through in the eighth and ninth.”

After tying the game in the bottom of the ninth on Guzman’s infield single, Batavia bounced right back in the top of the 10th. Alberto Guaimaro tried to sacrifice bunt, but ended up reaching on a bunt single. After a wild pitch put two runners in scoring position, Hollins flipped his two run single to right-center.

Three pitches later, Karas drove an 0-2 pitch from reliever Luis Ramirez the other way into the Williamsport bullpen for a two-run home run and a 7-3 Batavia lead. Williamsport has given up three, two and four runs in the three extra-inning games it’s played this year. Ramirez has allowed six of those nine runs.

“We know the game’s going to do whatever it wants to do,” Lancaster said. “As many times as the ball doesn’t roll your way, it’s going to roll your way later in the season. If we keep playing the game the way we’re playing it right now, the ball will start rolling our way.”