ValleyCats fall in heartbreaker

TROY — For the second straight day, the ValleyCats had a lead in the late innings, and the relief pitching did not hold up as they fell on Sunday to the Vermont Lake Monsters by a final score of 4-3.

Tri-City owned a two-run lead and had Vermont down to their final two outs of the night with Luis De Paula on the mound. Vermont catcher Lana Akau singled to give the team some hope. Then pinch hitter Payton Squier walked, and Marcos Brito singled to load the bases with just one out.

The Lake Monsters scored their first run since the fourth inning as Javier Godard hit a sacrifice fly to cut the game to 3-2. Disaster then struck for the ValleyCats as designated hitter Jose Rivas laced a line drive to right field. Tri-City right fielder Marty Costes dove for the ball and dropped it as his glove hit the ground. Rivas was tagged out heading back to second base after he tried to get to third to end the inning, but two runs scored to give the Lake Monsters a 4-3 lead and the damage was done.

“It was a close one, I gave it my best shot. I hope that next time I can come through,” Costes said of the play.

The ValleyCats had a final shot in the bottom of the ninth and gave the Lake Monsters a scare. The first two batters of the inning were retired, but the ValleyCats got the next two runners on as Michael Weilansky drew a walk and Gilberto Celestino singled up the middle. The next batter was Alex Holderbach, who was in his first professional game and trying to play hero after he had delivered a two-run single earlier in the game. He got up on a 2-0 count but struck out to end the game.

“I was thinking I was going to get something to hit. I got a little too excited, I’d say, trying to do a little too much there. Took a good pitch, and then swung at two bad ones. But that’s baseball, it’s one at-bat,” Holderbach said.

The ValleyCats had hit the board first Sunday as Enmanuel Valdez launched a long solo home run in the first inning. After Vermont tied the game at one in the fourth inning, Holderbach came through with a two-run single, his first professional hit, giving Tri-City a 3-1 lead.

“It was very exciting. It was nice because my whole family’s here, just a good thing to (have) my family be able to see that,” he added. Holderbach’s parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle, and two of his three brothers came up from his native Ohio for the game.

The first series of the season did not go the way the ValleyCats wanted, but it was a learning experience all-around for the team.

“There’s some good things, some things we need to improve on. All in all, I think there was some positives even though we didn’t win the series,” ValleyCats manager Jason Bell said.

Next, the ValleyCats will hit the road for the first time this season as they head down to Maryland to face the Aberdeen IronBirds for a three-game set. The first game of the series on Monday will begin at 7 p.m., and the team returns home on Thursday for a trio of games against the Lowell Spinners. Thursday’s game will begin at 7 p.m.

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