Crosscutters drop opener of series with Batavia

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette The Batavia Muckdogs’ Dalvy Rosario tags out the Williamsport Crosscutters’ D.J. Stewart during the game Friday night at Bowman Field.

Hardly nobody could blame Williamsport’s Edgar Made for being so far in front of the 3-2 change-up which ended Friday’s game at Bowman Field. Who ever could have imagined Batavia’s Joey Steele — who threw more balls than strikes — was going to drop an off-speed payoff pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth inning of a two-run game?

But sure enough, Steele did just that, striking out Made and stranding the bases full of Crosscutters. The gutsy 3-2 pitch gave Batavia a 3-1 win in the opener of a three-game series last night and the strikeout was a microcosm of Williamsport’s struggles in the first week of the season.

The Cutters were just 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position last night, including a pair of strikeouts with the bases loaded in the ninth. They missed on three chances with runners on second and third and nobody out in the third inning. Williamsport is hitting just .192 with runners in scoring position in the first week of the season, which is 10th best in the 14-team New York-Penn League.

It’s a large part of the reason Williamsport is just 2-6 through the first week of the season and currently riding a four-game losing streak.

“I think they’re expanding the zone a little bit,” manager Pat Borders said. “They’re seeing some pitchers that are tough. I remember the first time I got introduced to a real slider and there’s a learning curve with it. Whatever weakness they have, they’ll adapt to it and move on.”

It took a two-out throwing error in the bottom of the sixth inning Friday night for the Cutters to score their lone run. Williamsport’s only hit with a runner in scoring position was its first at-bat in the situation when Juan Aparicio beat out an infield single with a runner on second in the first inning. From there, Batavia continually shut the door.

When a wild pitch and stolen base put two runners in scoring position in the third inning, Batavia starter Remey Reed picked up two of his nine strikeouts before fielding a one-hop comebacker to end the inning. A fly ball to left field in the sixth inning left Logan O’Hoppe stranded at second base.

Williamsport struck out five times last night with runners in scoring position. Its 26 strikeouts with runners in scoring position are the second-most in the league. The Cutters have had the fifth-most at-bats with runners in scoring position, but the fifth-fewest hits in the league.

It’s not as if this is a Williamsport team which is incapable of hitting. Its .275 team batting average with the bases empty is second-best in the league behind only a 6-2 State College team which has the best record in the NYPL.

“I still think we’re getting used to the whole new atmosphere. I think it will come in time,” O’Hoppe said. “We’re putting our work in and doing it the right way. So we just have to trust what we’re doing and hopefully we’ll get the results pretty soon.”

“There’s some variants of when to be aggressive. I like them to go up there and have a plan,” Borders said. “It’s like getting picked off of first base. If you never expand to get picked off, you never learn what your limitations are. It’s the same thing as a hitter.”

Batavia took the lead last night when Nic Ready jumped all over a hanging two-strike changeup from Tom Sutera for a solo home run to lead off the second inning. Ready, the son of former big leaguer Randy Ready, got the ball just over the left field wall, 383 feet from home for his first professional home run since being drafted in the 22nd round by the Miami Marlins earlier this month.

But that was Sutera’s only hiccup through four strong innings which saw him allow just two hits and strike out three. In fact, it was another well-pitched game for the Crosscutters as Sutera, Jake Kinney, Carlos Francisco and Anton Kuznetsov combined on a seven-hitter, striking out eight and walking just one.

Batavia put together three extra-base hits against Francisco in the top of the sixth inning to take a 3-0 lead. J.D. Orr scored on Dalvy Rosario’s RBI triple to the right-field corner. Ready then added an RBI double to his night to score Rosario.

Williamsport hitters retired eight of the final 10 hitters it faced and got a pair of double plays to erase the the baserunners it did allow.

“I think our pitchers have done outstanding,” Borders said. “There’s been some spots they’ve given up some runs and probably would like a couple pitches back, but overall I think they’ve thrown outstanding.”