TROY — The Tri-City ValleyCats took the field at The Joe Sunday afternoon to continue their home stand against the Staten Island Yankees. They couldn’t get it done in the first game losing 2-0, but they held out to take game two 2-1 in extra innings.
The Yankees got going early with a drive in the second inning. Right fielder Junior Soto hit a sharp ground ball to third baseman Enmanuel Valdez. Valdez was able to field the ball, but threw the ball wide right of the first baseman, allowing Soto to move into scoring position. ValleyCat starter Alex House threw another stray pitch that allowed Soto to advance again before Andres Chaparro could drive him in on a ground out at first base.
After Tri-City’s starter was pulled in the third inning, Staten Island extended their lead. The ValleyCats opted to go with right hander Brett Daniels, who came in allowing three earned runs over four appearances, all of them coming from the homer. He continued this trend in his first inning when the catcher Jackson Thoreson hit one deep out the right field fence on his second pitch. This was Thoreson’s first career home run. Led by five strikeouts, Brett Daniels bounced back to retire the next twelve batters.
Staten Islands starter Frank German had an admirable performance as well. In his last two appearances German had struck out ten batters. German only struck out two batters Sunday, but in his four innings only three runners reached base safely, two of which on hits.
In the second game, Staten Island had the first opportunity to score. Two hits with one out in the top of the third saw runners on first and third base. Left fielder Ricardo Ferreira kept the ValleyCats in the games as he caught a pop fly and gunned the runner Gabriel Mora out at home to finish off the double play.
This excellent play was rewarded in the bottom of the third. Michael Wielansky hit a line drive to left field for a double. After a ground out moved Wielansky to third, Jeremy Pena smacked a hard ground ball to the left side of the infield to score Wielansky and reach base safely in the process. After being shutout 2-0 in each of the first two games of the series this was the ValleyCats’ first run.
Andy Diaz had a monster triple to right field in the top of the fifth inning. Only two pitches later Danienger Perez hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field to tie the game at one.
Nivaldo Rodriguez had a quality pitching performance through his first five innings, giving up one run and striking out three. But, in the top of the sixth he lost his footing. On a routine ground ball Rodriguez threw the ball passed first baseman Luis Encarnacion. This turned an easy out into a runner in scoring position. He then went on to send the runner to third and walk his final batter to end his night. Reliever Tim Hardy got the ValleyCats out of the jam by getting Miguel Flames to fly out, keeping the score tied.
The chalk held until the bottom of the eighth when the new extra innings rules took effect. In the minor leagues, once the game enters extra innings one runner is placed at second base.
Tri-City’s Jeremy Pena bunted down the third baseline to advance the runner but the third baseman muffed the recovery allowing Pena to score. Staten Island’s pitcher Christian Morris struck out the next two batters making the Yankees one out away from extending the game. Rather than pitching to the batter Austin Dennis, Staten Island opted to walk him to face Encarnacion.
Manager Jason Bell said “I think they wanted him to chase a few breaking balls and get out of it, but if those breaking balls aren’t located for strikes it put a lot of pressure on the pitcher to then throw a strike in that type of environment.”
Encarnacion did just that, working the count until Christian Morris finally walked him with the bases loaded, ending the game.
The ValleyCats only got eighteen hits over the three game series, far lower than what would be expected.
“What we want to do is hit the ball hard and in the air and sometimes we get unlucky with some of the catches by the outfielders. That’s what happened tonight. If a couple of them had gone down we would have had a very different series,” said Bell
The ValleyCats will travel down to the city to play the Brooklyn Cyclones Monday night at 7 p.m. There will be three games there before coming back home to play the Lowell Spinners on Thursday evening.