TROY — The Tri-City ValleyCats, fresh off of their Stedler Division title, entered the New York-Penn League playoffs looking at an unfamiliar foe. Wednesday’s game marked the first time the ValleyCats have faced off against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Cleveland Indians Single A affiliate) since 2016.
Game 1 of the New York-Penn League semifinals couldn’t have started any better for the ValleyCats. After a strong first inning by starting pitcher Brett Conine, Tri-City scored two runs in the bottom half. Third baseman Enmanuel Valdez singled with one out and designated hitter Luis Encarnacion followed that up with a walk. Oscar Campos, the ValleyCats catcher, would collect the first RBI of the game as he singled to center field.
Right fielder Logan Mattix would help add to the scoreboard as he hit a sac fly to left field that gave the ‘Cats an early 2-0 lead.
The ValleyCats would add more runs in the second, third and fifth innings to bolster their lead to 9-2. Left fielder Carlos Machado contributed with two hits and collected two RBI’s while Mattix recorded two hits and drove in another RBI in the third.
Brett Conine was brilliant during his 5 innings of work. He had command of the strike zone throughout and didn’t allow a base runner until the third inning. There he hit Scrappers’ catcher Angel Lopez, he allowed a grounds rule double and then a wild pitch scored two runs.
“I was just pounding the zone”, Conine said after the game. “It was nice getting run support from our team and it makes it really easy to go out an attack.”
“I think he competed the best he could”, head coach Jason Bell regarding Conine’s outing. “The two runs that were allowed weren’t really on him but fives innings in our pitch count is really difficult to do and it helps not only tonight but moving forward as well.”
As impressive Conine was on the mound, the bullpen was far from that. Relievers Manny Ramirez and Austin Hansen both gave up a two run home run that narrowed their lead to 9-6. Ramirez was only able to get two outs in his 0.2 IP before Hansen came in to close the door on the Scrappers.
Hansen was able to collect the save as he worked out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the ninth inning to secure the win and the series lead for the ValleyCats.
Game two will be tonight at Mahoning Valley and pitcher Brett Daniels will take the mound for the ValleyCats. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.