Wilkening’s RBI single gives Cutters win in the 10th

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/Sun-Gazette The Williamsport Crosscutters’ Jesse Wilkening slides into home plate as Batavia’s catcher can’t get the throw in time during Saturday’s game at Bowman Field.

Jesse Wilkening rounded first base and kept right on running. He ditched his red Williamsport Crosscutters helmet as he waited by the outfield grass for his teammates to mob him Saturday night at Bowman Field.

The Cutters’ catcher had just lined an RBI single to right-center field to score Matt Kroon and give Williamsport a 3-2, walk-off win over the Batavia Muckdogs. It was the first extra-inning win and walk-off win of the season for the Crosscutters.

The Cutters rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning after Batavia had scored once in the top half.

“It’s always great to win like. It’s a great momentum-builder,” said Wilkening, who had baby powder in his ear after his teammates doused him with it behind second base. “It’s awesome. This is what you live for. Pro ball. Walk-off. It’s unbelievable.”

The win snapped the Cutters’ winless streak in extra innings this season at four games. A game in which it missed so many scoring opportunities through the first nine innings, Williamsport finally capitalized on them when it mattered the most.

The Cutters recorded all four of its hits with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the 10th inning. The first was a one-out single from Jake Holmes to score Ben Pelletier to tie the game. It was just Holmes’ second hit in 19 at-bats at Bowman Field since being promoted from the Gulf Coast League in late July.

After Holmes stole second, Matt Kroon followed with a single to left field. Holmes was sent to the plate by third-base coach Chris Truby, but was dead to rights and pulled up before getting to the plate. Kroon scrambled to second before Holmes was tagged out.

Jonathan Guzman reached on an infield single on an 0-2 pitch to put runners at the corners for Wilkening. The at-bat for the 14th-round pick out of the University of Nebraska came one inning after he nearly won the game with a line drive to right field which hung up just long enough to be caught.

That didn’t happen in the 10th inning. He drove a 2-1 fastball over second baseman Gerardo Nunez’s head to easily score Kroon and set off a wild celebration in shallow right field. Teammates doused Wilkening with water and baby powder after snapping a three-game losing streak.

“We had a bunch of opportunities where we didn’t capitalize throughout the game, but it’s just part of the game,” Wilkening said. “I was looking for something over the plate. I was surprised they threw me more fastballs than I thought they were going to. After a slider he came back with another one and I got on top of it and laced it.”

The late surge backed a Cutters pitching staff which threw another strong game. The bullpen combined for eight innings of two-hit ball after starting pitcher Jhordany Mezquita lasted just two innings before leaving with an undisclosed injury.

The four pitchers — Mezquita, Rafael Carvajal, Austin Ross and Robinson Martinez — combined to strike out 16 Batavia batters.

“We pitched backwards really well,” Wilkening said. “We got ahead in counts early and we stayed that way the whole way.”

Mezquita was fantastic in his two innings of work. He struck out the side in the first inning, punching out all three hitters with a fastball, the last of which was 94 mph.

He did more of the same in the top of the second inning, striking out two more. But after throwing just two warm-up pitches before the start of the third inning, Mezquita motioned to the dugout that something wasn’t right. Truby and athletic trainer Steve Torregrossa visited Mezquita on the mound and had a brief discussion before Mezquita was lifted from the game after just 37 pitches and seven batters.

The five strikeouts for Mezquita left him one short of his season high which he achieved in his first start of the season against Auburn on June 20. But the 20-year-old left-hander set a tone which his Cutters teammates followed.

All-Star Rafael Carvajal threw three innings of scoreless relief, striking out the side in the fourth inning. The right-hander struck out four in his three innings.

Austin Ross followed with four more strikeouts in his three innings. But he did allow the Muckdogs’ lone run of regulation when Brayan Hernandez deposited a 1-0 fastball over the left-field wall for a solo home run in the top of the sixth inning.

“(Mezquita) was throwing great,” Wilkening said. “Something happened, but I have no idea what. I didn’t get to talk to him about it all. I was going back out for the bottom of the inning and all of a sudden he was coming out of the game.”