Pena hits first pro home run as ValleyCats take game 1 of doubleheader

TROY — The Tri-City ValleyCats, powered by early offense and strong pitching, defeated the Lowell Spinners by a score of 6-3 in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader at Joe Bruno Stadium.

The ValleyCats were the first to strike with a sacrifice fly hit by catcher Alex Holderbach that brought home third baseman Emmanuel Valdez in the bottom of the second. Cesar Salazar kept the scoring going with a two-RBI single shortly thereafter, and the ValleyCats led 3-0 after just two innings.

Tri-City tacked on another run in the third inning, as Valdez hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field, bringing home Andy Pineda. After three innings, the ValleyCats had scored four runs while the Spinners had not yet gotten a man on base.

 ValleyCats starter Nivaldo Rodriguez’s retired the first 11 batters he faced before a prefect game bid broken up by a two-out single off the bat of Lane Milligan in the fourth inning. The next batter, Ramfis Berroa, doubled to bring Milligan home and put Lowell on the board.

ValleyCats second baseman Austin Dennis had an impressive game both at the plate and on the basepaths. The Middle Tennessee State product singled to lead off the fourth, made it to second by way of a Victor Garcia balk, and then stole third for his second stolen base of the contest.

The next batter, centerfielder Ramiro Rodriguez, grounded into a fielder’s choice where Dennis was thrown out at home, but this did not mean the scoring was over for the ValleyCats. Shortstop Jeremy Pena, a third round pick by the Houston Astros in the 2018 MLB Draft and the Astros’ 29th best prospect according to MLB.com, hit his first professional home run to put two more on the board for the home team.

The score remained 6-1 until the top of the seventh inning. In the top half of the frame, Trey Ganns reached base after an error by Pena. The next batter, Dylan Hardy, doubled down the left field line, making the score to 6-2. Hardy then got to third after a wild pitch by Riley Cabral, and batter Andre Colon walked.

Lowell’s final run of the game, which would bring the final score to 6-3, came from a fielder’s choice that was nearly a double play by Jonathan Ortega. The makings of a rally seemed to potentially be in place, but the next batter, Grant Williams, flied out to right center after managing to get to a 14-pitch at bat.

ValleyCats starter Nivaldo Rodriguez had a quite impressive night on the mound. He pitched a season-high six innings and only allowed one earned run and two hits, as well as two walks and just two strikeouts. He recorded his second win of the season, while Lowell starter Taylor Ahearn was charged with the loss.

This win brings the ValleyCats to 26-20 on the season and also increases their division lead on Lowell to 2.5 games as the Spinners fall to 24-23. This win tied the series at one apiece, and after playing the second game of the doubleheader, the ValleyCats will take on the Connecticut Tigers on the road on Sunday.

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