Lucas’ 2-run single propels Scrappers

The groundball hit toward the shortstop position by Mahoning Valley’s Simeon Lucas was no different than the thousands upon thousands of slow rollers hit there this summer throughout pro baseball. This one, though, reached the outfield and his teammates raced toward home plate scoring a pair of crucial eighth-inning runs.

Williamsport had shifted its infield to the pull side against the left-hand hitting Lucas, and when his groundball rolled toward the normal shortstop position. There was nobody there to catch it. Lucas beat the shift for a two-run single which helped the Scrappers maintain their lead in the Pinckney Division with a 4-1 win.

With 69 games played in the season, Williamsport’s elimination number has dwindled to one, meaning one more loss eliminates them from playoff contention. Of course, this writing has been on the wall for weeks as the Cutters have struggled to put wins together. Last night was a prime example. One night after scoring 11 runs against the Pinckney Division leaders, Williamsport managed just four hits, only two of which came after a one-run first inning.

But as it has been much of the season, the pitching was good enough to keep Williamsport within striking distance. Then Lucas hit his two-run single to a vacated shortstop to put the finishing touches on the game.

“They threw him a slider, and maybe it’s something they program into their computer to learn from later to make that pitch a ball,” Cutters manager Pat Borders said. “The strikeout to walk ration (for Lucas) was dramatically different in favor of the strikeouts. So more than likely he’s going to swing at that pitch out of the strikezone. But that’s something you can learn from.”

To that point, Robinson Martinez had done a tremendous job to try and wiggle out of the two-on, one-out jam he was facing. He threw a good slider down in the zone to strikeout Henry Pujols for the second out of the inning.

Lucas managed to work the count full before sending the slow roller through the infield with first base open. Jose Fermin scored easily from third and Hosea Nelson scored easily when Ben Pelletier didn’t pick up the ball cleanly in left field.

Mahoning Valley pitching retired the final 10 Williamsport batters it faced to close out the win.

“You definitely talk to them about it. You pick a good time and talk to (catcher Rafael Marchan) and make sure he’s aware of the complete situation,” Borders said. “Sometimes the game will get fast and you’ll be thinking too quickly and you won’t digest the whole inning and how it’s developing and who’s on deck and things like that.”

It was a pair of two-run innings for the Scrappers which spelled the 40th loss of the season for Williamsport. Cutters starting pitcher Francisco Morales did a fantastic job to limit the damage in the third inning to just two runs. The first three batters of the inning reached base, including an RBI triple for Fermin and an RBI single for Tyler Freeman, the New York-Penn League’s leading hitter.

Coming off a career-high 11 strikeouts in his last outing against State College, this outing wasn’t nearly as crisp for Morales, but he was able to work out of jams and limit damage. Following Freeman’s single, Morales induced a pop-up to first base from Nelson and struck out back-to-back hitters to end the inning. The 18-year-old right-hander allowed just the two runs in 4 2/3 innings and struck out five.

“I think his stuff is getting better and the intent of his pitches is getting better,” Borders said. “There’s a reason behind each pitch. That’s what I like. He’s not just up there throwing and moving the ball forward. He’s saying I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that and there’s a reason why.”

Williamsport rallied for a first-inning run against hard-throwing right-hander Juan Mota, a pitcher who entered the game with a 5.76 ERA. Ben Aklinski doubled with one out down the third-base line. Alec Bohm then drilled a 97 mph fastball back through the middle for an RBI single. It was his fifth RBI since rejoining the Cutters following a knee injury. That’s already more than he had in his initial 14 games with Williamsport earlier this summer.

“Just because of who he is he might put pressure on himself and he doesn’t need to do that,” Borders said. “Be who he was to get here. And I think he’s doing that.”