TROY — Down by a run in the late going, the ValleyCats staged a seventh-inning rally and held on to beat the Connecticut Tigers by a final score of 3-2 on Wednesday night at Joe Bruno Stadium.
The Tigers led 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, with the ValleyCats offense struggling, only having put up one run on four hits in the first six innings.
Off of Connecticut reliever Juan Aguilera, now in his second inning, things changed. After Juan Pineda drew a one-out walk, Andy Pineda stepped up and delivered the biggest hit of the night, an RBI triple to right-center field that dropped between Connecticut outfielders Darwin Alvarado and Reece Hampton, scoring Juan Pineda and tying the game.
Then, they caught a lucky break. Ramiro Rodriguez lined out to first base for the second out of the inning, but first baseman Nick Ames made a bad snap throw back to third base and it got through, allowing Andy Pineda to score from third and give the ValleyCats a lead that they never gave up.
“The first thing coach told (me) was to run on contact, be aggressive as soon as you see the ball make contact and get back hard to the bag if it’s a line drive,” Pineda said through a translator.
“That’s kind of a tricky play, he maybe could have been doubled off but that’s the risk we’re going to take by running on contact with one out,” ValleyCats manager Jason Bell added. “It’s tough, but we want the first baseman to throw that ball because when you think about it, first baseman don’t throw that much, so if there’s a time we would ever want the guy to throw it it would be in that situation.”
Before that seventh inning, however, the ValleyCats had struggled at the plate all night, only having scored one run on four hits through the first two-thirds of the game, the lone run coming on an RBI single from Austin Dennis in the fifth. However, Tri-City starter Nivaldo Rodriguez kept the Connecticut bats in check, tossing five innings of two-run ball on four hits.
“Sometimes you got to find a way to win, and that’s what we did tonight. I thought we played really, really well in every area besides offensively,” Bell said.
After Rodriguez’s night ended, the ValleyCat bullpen corps of Brett Conine and Carlos Hiraldo shut down the opposition the rest of the way behind four shutout innings on just two hits. Hiraldo was most impressive, going three innings while allowing only one hit, earning his fourth win of the season.
“We got the first out (on the first batter) pretty regularly, which was huge. Sometimes they have runners on, or there’s a two-out walk, but because we were able to get the first out of the inning it puts us in a better spot because even if there is a walk or a hit we’re always one pitch away from a double play,” Bell said.
With the win, the ValleyCats improve to 33-23 on the season, leading the Stedler Division by 3.5 games and are now tied for the best record in the New York-Penn League. They will be back in action Thursday night for the second and final game of the series against Connecticut at 7 p.m. The probable starters are Mark Moclair for the ValleyCats and Carlos Guzman for the Tigers.