— Mark Singelais (@MarkSingelais) June 22, 2017
TROY, NY — It’s not every day an umpire loses track of balls and strikes. Then again baseball games usually aren’t won by a ball getting lost in a shortstop’s legs. The 4,648 fans who packed into Joe Bruno Stadium for the ValleyCats home opener Wednesday were treated to both spectacles, and that was before the Market 32 fireworks went off.
Down 4-3 and running out of time in the bottom of the ninth inning, Tri-City centerfielder Andy Pineda set the crowd on fire with chants of “Vamos-Gatos” (Let’s go Cats in Spanish.). The Azua, Dominican Republic native hit a line drive missile to Lowell shortstop Yomar Valentin, who could not make the play, plating left fielder Frankeny Fernandez and catcher Ruben Castro.
“What a great experience to do a walk-off in the ninth,” said ValleyCats manager Morgan Ensberg, who admits his young team is dealing with new emotions. “They are so young….. I think they’re just trying to get used to playing in front of people.”
Patrick Sandoval led the ‘Cats charge on the mound, going five innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits while striking out eight batters. “I just calmed myself down at the beginning of the game. I saw the fans, focused in on my glove and did my job out there,” he said. “It was great; the fans were awesome tonight.”
The game was interrupted for a few minutes in the top of the sixth inning as the umpires appeared to have lost count of the ball/strike count. ” We have to remember that the umpires are new and they’re learning like the players,” said an empathetic Ensberg. “It’s difficult. Sometimes the game goes quickly.”
The two teams will meet again tomorrow for game two of the three game set at 7:00 p.m.