TROY — So far, it’s been the season of the walk-off for the Tri-City ValleyCats.
They continued that trend on Saturday night at Joe Bruno Stadium, this time it being Grae Kessinger ending the game with a walk-off single as the ValleyCats earned a 10-inning, 4-3 win over the Aberdeen IronBirds.
The ValleyCats trailed 3-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, three outs away from their losing streak being extended to six games. However, they did not let that happen. CJ Stubbs led off the frame with a triple to deep center field that landed at the base of the wall. Two batters later, E.P. Reese hit a sacrifice fly to right to tie the game at three, eventually sending it into extra innings, the fifth such game for the ValleyCats this season already.
Despite having two baserunners on in the top of the 10th inning, Aberdeen did not score. In the bottom half, the ValleyCats used pinch runner Deury Carrasco as the placed runner. The second batter of the inning, Kessinger, sent a line drive into center field just out of the reach of shortstop Joey Ortiz. Despite Carrasco taking a very wide turn at first base, the throw from centerfielder Johnny Rizer was off and the game ended.
“I just wanted to get something that I could drive. I didn’t want to be over-anxious or take too big of a swing and get out of myself. I had been seeing the ball well all day so I just wanted to stay with my approach and stay aggressive,” Kessinger said.
The second-round pick out of Mississippi had already been having a great night, having already gotten three hits earlier in the game. He finished the night 4-5.
“Any time you have a few hits on the night, you’re obviously feeling good and you just want to ride that momentum for as long as you can,” Kessinger added.
Before that though, the ValleyCats’ pitching had been shut-down. They allowed three runs in the first four innings but did not allow a hit the rest of the night. Peyton Battenfield threw three perfect innings out of the bullpen, and then Shea Barry pitched the last two innings and picked up his first professional win.
“It’s cool, because it’s a close game. I’m fortunate to be here, one. Two, it was just awesome. Can’t wait for the next one,” Barry said.
This marks the fourth ValleyCats’ walk-off win of the year, every home win this season so far coming in that fashion. They are now 5-9 on the season.
“I keep saying, I think we’re not good in the first half, we start a little bit before and we win the second half. If we can do that and just max out the first, I think we’ll be fine, we’ll be in a good spot,” manager Ozney Guillen said.
Strange, but true
Of the four walk-off wins this season, three of them have seen Deury Carrasco score the winning run. The other two times were a 2-1 win against Staten Island on June 17 and a 6-5 win against Vermont on June 22.
In the midst of a five-game losing streak, manager Ozney Guillen held a team meeting before Saturday’s game, not just about baseball, but to gauge the feelings and lives of the players and try to work things out. It looks like it worked.
A good start
Peyton Battenfield has been one of the ValleyCats’ best pitchers so far this season. He threw three perfect innings Saturday, striking out five hitters. In 7 1/3 innings pitched this year so far to start his pro career, he has not given up a run. He’s given up only one hit, and no walks. His WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is a mind-boggling 0.14.
These two teams will close out the series on Sunday, a 5 p.m. start at Joe Bruno Stadium. Manny Ramirez gets the start for the ValleyCats, and it’ll be Ryan Conroy for Aberdeen.