Cutters drop another close game in season finale

Photo Submitted by the Williamsport Crosscutters The Williamsport Crosscutters’ Manuel Silva delivers a pitch during Sunday’s game against the State College Spikes at Bowman Field.

As the Williamsport Crosscutters’ season came to an end at Bowman Field on Monday afternoon, manager Pat Borders couldn’t help but think about how the 1-0 loss to State College succinctly summed up Williamsport’s season.

Four Cutters pitchers were solid, scattering six hits and allowing one unearned run. The offense put 13 runners on base, including four in the ninth inning. But the Cutters were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners on base.

It all spelled out the 44th loss of the season for Williamsport, who finished with a 32-44 record. It was tied for the third-fewest wins in a season in Cutters history.

Yesterday was the 49th game (out of 76) for the Cutters decided by three runs or fewer. They finished with just 18 wins in those games. The .367 winning percentage in games decided by three runs or fewer is the lowest for a Cutters team in the last 10 years.

It’s a big part of the reason Williamsport struggled to find its footing all season after opening up with six wins in its first eight games. The Cutters were just 7-13 in one-run games (the fewest wins in the last 10 years), 8-11 in two-run games (the most games played in the last 10 years), and 3-7 in three-run games (the fewest wins in the last 10 years.

“We had a lot of chances all year that we didn’t take,” Williamsport outfielder Ben Pelletier said. “I think we just missed a lot of opportunities.”

Williamsport manager Pat Borders, who finished his fourth season at the helm, was happy with the effort of his team, as he has been all year. On a day where it would have been easy for guys to swing out of their shoes and give at-bats away, he saw patient approaches and deep counts. But it led to just six hits, not one of which came with runners in scoring position.

“All I ask them to do is compete, don’t at-bats away,” Borders said. “That’s the biggest thing because if you do, you’ll regret it at the end of the season. Now it’s the end of the season and I didn’t think they gave any away. It was a productive day.”

It was productive for starting pitcher Manuel Silva who, at 19 years old, finished off his season with a 2.60 ERA by throwing four shutout innings. For the 13th time this season Silva allowed three runs or fewer in a game.

Still hitting as much as 94 mph in his final start, the spindly southpaw was electric. He allowed just two hits, didn’t walk a batter, and struck out three. He finished the season with 60 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings.

“His maturity on the mound, I thought he matured emotionally,” Borders said. “Intent-wise with a pitch, I thought he attacked the zone with a purpose on his pitches instead of just moving the ball forward. He was throwing a pitch to do this or to do that and thinking about the next pitch a little bit, which is a big step for a young pitcher.”

The game remained scoreless through seven innings as both Ethan Evanko and Randy Alcantara followed Silva with three combined scoreless frames. Through those seven innings, State College didn’t have a runner reach third base.

But reliever Blake Bennett ran into trouble in the top of the eighth when he walked leadoff hitter Cameron Knight on four pitches. When Jonatan Machado put down a bunt to Bennett, Bennett turned to fire to second, but the ball slipped out of his hand and everyone was safe.

Three pitches later, Edwin Figuera singled to left to load the bases. Bennett minimized the damage by rolling a pair of ground balls to end the inning. The first started a stellar double play by Jonathan Guzman and Brayan Gonzalez which allowed a run to score, but put Bennett on the brink of ending the inning. Guzman fielded the next ground ball to end the inning.

“That was a big league double play and it was needed at that time to get us out of a tough situation,” Borders said. “You wish it would have been a little better situation where we still come out with the win for that effort by Bennett, but it was still a good effort.”

Trailing by one, the Cutters put two runners on base to start the ninth with an Alec Bohm walk and a Jake Holmes single. But Gonzalez bunted into a fielder’s choice and Lenin Rodriguez grounded out to the pitcher. Two batters later, with the winning run on second, Keudy Bocio hit a one-hop rocket back to the mound where State College pitcher Kevin Hamann knocked it down and recorded the final out of an otherwise frustrating season for Williamsport.

“I think we had a good plan as a team, it just didn’t work out,” Pelletier said. “We tried to piece it together today. It worked for some guys and it didn’t work for others.”