Cutters give up 8 runs in final 3 innings

The final pitch Francisco Morales threw wasn’t a bad one Sunday evening. It was off the plate inside to State College’s Delvin Perez.

But somehow the former first-round draft pick put the barrel of the bat on the ball and hit it hard enough to carry the 2-2 pitch over the left-field wall. Morales, Williamsport’s starting pitcher, could only remove his hat in disbelief before turning to look for another baseball from home plate umpire Tyler Witte.

That one pitch distorted the view of what was otherwise a brilliant start for the Crosscutters’ right-hander. He threw three pitches for strikes at any point in the count. He worked into the seventh inning for the first time. And he allowed just three hits.

But unfortunately for Morales, two of those three hits were home runs. And after he left, the State College offense really took off, scoring six runs over the final two innings to give the Spikes a 9-1 win over the Crosscutters at Bowman Field.

“He threw well. He competed,” Cutters manager Pat Borders said. “He lost his control on that one pitch and the guy made a good swing and hit a home run and it made it look, numerically, like it wasn’t as good a start as it really was.”

In his final start of the season Morales showed off why he will likely be a Top 10 prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system on offseason scouting lists. He located his fastball, throwing first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 25 hitters he faced. His sixth and final strikeout came on a perfectly executed high fastball at 94 mph.

He also manipulated a slider to either be dropped in the strikezone as a swing-and-miss pitch, or to be buried in the dirt when necessary. And he even flashed a serviceable change-up which generated some easy outs for the defense.

His lone blemishes were the fastball in to Perez and a center-cut fastball which Wadye Ynfante launched 391 feet for a solo homer in the second inning. The strong outing continued a marvelous finish to the 18-year-old’s season.

The three earned runs he allowed yesterday were the most he’s surrendered in his last five starts. His strikeouts were his second-highest total during the stretch. The three hits allowed matched his best total in his last five starts.

In total, he’s posted a 2.91 ERA over his last five games, a mark far below his season ERA of 5.27. He’s allowed just 6.6 hits per nine innings and struck out nearly 12 batters per nine innings. He’s also held batters to a .189 batting average.

“I thought in his last outing he had a big league slider. You could take that slider and put it on any pitcher in the big leagues and he would be happy to have it,” Borders said. “He’s on his way. He’s getting closer. He repeated some of it (Sunday) and the percentage of better sliders is getting better from the beginning. At times, he was throwing a lot of non-competitive pitches early on. Now they’re in the zone and they’re tough to lay off of and tough to hit if they’re in the zone.”

A night after scoring seven runs with two innings of crooked numbers, the Williamsport offense couldn’t repeat its success. It put baserunners in scoring position against State College starting pitcher Eli Kraus, but never got the big hit to drive in the run.

Ben Aklinski tripled with one out in the first inning but was stranded there by a strikeout and a weak ground out. Lenin Rodriguez doubled to lead off the third but advanced as far as only third base. Seth Lancaster was on second base with one out in the fifth and didn’t advance any farther. And Aklinski was on second with nobody out in the sixth but never advanced to third.

It was part of the Jekyll and Hyde offense output which has seen Williamsport score at least seven runs in four of its last eight games, and be held to two or fewer in the other four.

“It’s been off and on the last week,” Borders said. “Last week we had 17 hits in one game and the next had four. We’re going to play everybody and give them a chance to show what they can do. Some days we have a lineup that’s more conducive to hit, and some days we don’t.”