Cutters’ offensive woes continue in one-hitter

Jack Perkins’ first-pitch fastball to Mahoning Valley’s Connor Smith was up in the zone. Smith turned on it and belted it into the Scrappers’ bullpen in left field two batters into the fourth inning Friday night at Bowman Field.

It was the lone mistake made by either team last night as Mahoning Valley finished a three-game sweep of the Williamsport Crosscutters with a 2-0 win. Three Scrappers pitchers combined on a one-hit shutout last night. Nine Scrappers pitchers held Williamsport scoreless in 26 of the series’ 27 innings.

“Mahoning Valley had some good arms and we knew that coming in,” Cutters third baseman Jake Holmes said. “It just didn’t go our way. You just square up the ball and hope it gets down. They just didn’t fall (Friday).”

Williamsport’s lone hit last night was a first-inning single from Ben Pelletier. It was the Cutters’ first hit of the series with a runner in scoring position, but baserunner Ben Aklinski was held up at third by base coach Chris Truby with only one out and the fourth and fifth hitters in the order coming up.

Edwin Rodriguez ended up popping out to third baseman Henry Pujols, and Holmes struck out despite being ahead 3-0 in the count.

That inning was the only time last night the Cutters advanced a runner past first base. In fact, it had just two more baserunners over the final eight innings when Pelletier led off the fourth with a walk and Jesus Henriquez worked a two-out walk in the eighth inning. Scrappers pitchers faced just four batters over the minimum as it recorded the first one-hitter in the New York-Penn League this season.

“After that first inning, I thought we were going to have more chances,” said Truby, who was the acting manager for the Cutters with Pat Borders in Toronto for a reunion of the 1992 and 1993 World Series champion Blue Jays teams. “But it never materialized. I took my shot with Rodriguez there. Obviously if you know the throw is going to be off line, you send (Aklinski). But he catches it and makes a strong throw. We still had a shot to score there.”

That shot never came as Mahoning Valley starter Juan Mota pitched six innings of shutout baseball. The hard-throwing right-hander who ran his fastball up as high as 97 mph settled in nicely following Pelletier’s first-inning single. He retired 17 of the next 18 hitters he faced.

The 22-year-old entered with a 5.44 ERA but picked up his third win by inducing eight groundball outs and striking out five more. He succeeded despite throwing first-pitch strikes to just eight of the 21 batters he faced.

“I think we chased some balls down,” said Truby, who will manage through the weekend series. “(Mota) had a good sinker going. We helped him in some hitter’s counts. We had some shots. We were building at-bats. But we had one inning where we squared three balls up and didn’t get anything.”

“We knew what we were going into, we faced him before,” Holmes said. “Give him credit because he has a good fastball and he knows it and he just beat us.”

Outside of the one mistake by Perkins, four Williamsport pitchers combined on a sterling outing. Fourth-round draft pick Colton Eastman worked two hitless inning to start the game in maybe his best effort since being assigned to Williamsport. James McArthur was dominant as he struck out five in two innings of relief, running his scoreless innings streak to 20 1/3 innings. And Randy Alcantara faced the minimum over his three innings to close out the game.

“I saw Eastman last time and he threw the ball really good this time,” Truby said. “That was the first time I saw McArthur and that looked really good. And Alcantara just kind of gave us the length we needed just to keep the game where it was. We only gave up two runs and you’ll take that every day.”