Crosscutters fend off late rally from Mahoning Valley, walk into first place in MLB Draft League standings
The Crosscutters came into Sunday’s game against Mahoning Valley battling for first place in the MLB Draft League standings. But in a game that featured 20 total walks, it wasn’t exactly a race to the finish.
Still, Williamsport defeated the Scrappers, 6-3 at Bowman Field to complete a sweep of Mahoning Valley and sit atop the league standings.
“It’s a testament of their work, realistically,” Crosscutters manager Jesse Litsch said. “We put in our work, we’ve done our stuff as coaches. We can’t play the game they do and they’ve done it well so far. We just keep going out there, putting lineups together and it doesn’t really matter who’s on the field. They’re going out and playing as a group and it’s fun to watch.”
Williamsport (10-5) took three consecutive walks in the bottom of the fourth inning to load the bases. From there, Cole Evans hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the lead runner and take a 2-1 lead.
At the top of the order, Matthew Etzel knocked an RBI single to put runners on the corners with two outs. Travis Holt then stole home on a throwing error to go up three runs.
“One through nine we put together good at-bats through the whole game, really,” Litsch said. “It’s been pretty consistent up and down the lineup. They put the ball in play and make things happen. Defensively, they’ve been outstanding. Our infielders in general have been great. Outfielders are tracking balls down, so it’s been fun all around. It’s fun baseball for sure.”
The Scrappers (10-5) began rallying down the stretch. Matt Archer led off the top of the seventh inning with a double out to center and took third base on a wild pitch.
Brian Kalmer drove him in with a sacrifice fly afterward to cut the game to two runs. In the top of the eighth, Buck Anderson roped one to left field for a two-out RBI single, closing the gap to a single score.
“We just minimized really well,” third baseman Daniel Harris said. “That’s all it was. Pitchers did really good. Pitchers did a lot of minimizing when things got out of hand. They kept it to a minimum on everything.”
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Holt ran home from third base on a wild pitch. Harris then drove in a run afterward to give the Crosscutters breathing room. Harris went 3 for 5 and Etzel went 2 for 3.
“My boy Etzel was gassed up down in front of me,” Harris said. “He was having long at-bats so when it got up to me, just trying to get a strike over so I could take advantage of it.”
Both teams had an even split of 10 walks apiece. But numerous groundouts and a pair of double plays contained runners all day.
A total of 44 runners were left on base, 20 of them being the Scrappers and often while they were in scoring position.
“They’re solid. They’re athletes out there who can play anywhere. That’s realistically what it is,” Litsch said on the Crosscutters’ infielders. “We could put pretty much any of those guys in any position and they excel. It’s fun to watch. It’s definitely fun to be a part of and I know the pitchers I’m sure are ecstatic to have them behind them.”
It took just five pitches in Williamsport’s first at-bat to get into scoring position. Etzel led off with a walk and Harris smacked a double. Following a strikeout, Sabin Ceballos forced in Etzel on a ground out.
Mahoning Valley tied the game in the following frame after three consecutive walks forced in a run. Both teams struck out six batters across their entire pitching staffs and registered seven hits apiece.
“It’s dope,” Harris said on the sweep. “I hope we just keep it going.”