Williams, pitching, help Cutters salvage doubleheader with West Virginia

Corbin Williams wasted no time changing the narrative of Williamsport’s doubleheader with West Virginia on Monday. After being shut out and held to two hits in the opener, the Crosscutters’ leadoff man ripped a double down the left-field line to open the first inning. He scored five pitches later and Williamsport was off.

Behind the one-hit shutout pitching of Taylor Lehman, Jake Kinney and Abdallah Aris, the Cutters salvaged a split of the twinbill at Bowman Field with a 4-0 win in the nightcap. West Virginia won the opener, 2-0.

“It’s been a long two days and we didn’t play (Sunday), so it’s nice to go home with a win,” Williams said.

After being held to just two hits in the shutout loss to open the doubleheader, the Cutters’ offense actually went to the batting cage in the right-field corner between games to get in extra swings. The work seemed to open up the offense in the second game. Williams scorched his double to left and scored five pitches later on Juan Aparicio’s RBI single.

Julio Francisco pushed the lead to 2-0 with a two-out RBI double which bounded out of the glove of a diving Jonah Davis in the bottom of the second inning. Williamsport had nine hits in the nightcap, including recording at least one hit in five of six innings.

“The first game it looked like we came out swinging under water,” Williams said. “We had to be ready for the second game. So we went to the cage and got that right.”

Williams’ first-inning run was really the only run the Cutters needed as the three Williamsport pitchers continued the early-season trend of pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters. Lehman, making his first professional start, established his fastball early and rode it to a stellar first outing. The Penn State graduate struck out seven over four innings.

The only hit recorded by West Virginia came on an 0-2 pitch by Lehman with two outs in the first inning. Brett Kinneman laced a single through the hole between shortstop and third base. The Black Bears had just four baserunners in the seven-inning affair, three of which came on walks. Only one West Virginia baserunner reached second base, and Lehman made sure he didn’t advance any farther by getting his final strikeout and a weak ground ball to end the fourth inning.

“I think I did well,” Lehman said. “I got ahead early with my fastball and, if need be, finished with it. It was working and I stuck with it.”

Four of Lehman’s strikeouts came on a fastball which topped out at 92 mph. He and Aparicio dialed up some well-timed off-speed pitches to keep the West Virginia lineup. But even when Jake Kinney relieved Lehman to begin the fifth inning, he rode his fastball to two scoreless innings.

Kinney picked up the victory, which was his first since July 28 last year. Kinney struck out three batters of his own, and Abdallah Aris added another in a perfect seventh inning.

In all, the three Williamsport pitchers threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 25 hitters it faced and threw 63 of its 98 pitches (64%) for strikes. In four games this season, Cutters pitchers have thrown 67% of its pitches for strikes.

“They’ve been doing it since extended,” Williams said. “It’s a fast-paced game behind them and we get a lot of outs.”

The Cutters added two more runs in the fifth inning when Aparicio and Stewart led off with back-to-back singles. Then, for the second time already this season, Williamsport pulled off a first-and-third double steal. Stewart stole second and Aparicio broke on the throw to second to score without a play at home. Williamsport also pulled off the feat Saturday in State College with Julio Francisco and Edgar Made.

Seth Lancaster added an RBI single two batters later to stretch the lead to 4-0. Lancaster is 5 for his last 5 and has reached base in six consecutive plate appearances.

“(Cutters manager Pat Borders) likes to be aggressive,” Williams said. “We’ve been working on this since extended. We have a new philosophy of apply pressure at all times no matter what. And we have a lot of guys who may not be 80 speed guys, but can cause chaos on the bases.”

The victory followed a rather listless offensive performance in the opener which saw only Aparicio and Nicolas Torres record hits for Williamsport. But hits were tough to come by in general as West Virginia only had five.

But the one big blow for the Black Bears was Nick Patten’s towering two-out, two-run home run to left field which traveled an estimated 401 feet.

Omar Maldonado tossed two shutout innings in his professional debut for Williamsport, striking out three.

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