TROY — The ValleyCats again struggled in the early innings and it held them back the rest of the game as they ended up falling to the Connecticut Tigers on Saturday night, 9-2.
The biggest back-breaker came for the ValleyCats in the third inning. Already down 1-0 heading into the frame, they surrendered five runs as they fell down 6-0. Ryan Kreidler led off the inning with a double, followed up by a single from Riley Greene, the fifth overall pick in this year’s MLB Draft. A wild pitch scored the first run to make it 2-0. Eleizer Alfonzo, Jordan Verdon and Andrew Navigato all had RBI’s in the inning as the game slowly slipped away. Alfonzo kept his day going in the fourth inning, adding an RBI single that made it 7-0 at the time.
Starting pitcher Hunter Brown did not make it out of that third inning, being relieved by Derek West, who struggled as well. Brown gave up five earned runs in two-plus innings, while West gave up three in three frames of work.
“It’s hard to play from behind when (the pitchers) don’t throw strikes. We haven’t been throwing strikes at all. But it’s still not an excuse to drop balls or anything like that, you’re still getting paid to do a job,” manager Ozney Guillen said.
Meanwhile, the team struggled to get anything going on the offensive side. The lone offensive highlight was back-to-back home runs from CJ Stubbs and AJ Lee in the fifth inning, which were the ‘Cats first two hits of the night. They accounted for the team’s only runs and two of the seven hits on the night.
The team struggling in the first half of games is something that has frustrated Guillen all season.
“Not good. The same thing has been happening all year, it’s not good and we’re not getting better at it,” he said.
The ValleyCats gave up another pair of runs in the fifth inning but did not score any themselves for the remainder of the night. Yeremi Ceballos and Peyton Battenfield combined to pitch the final four innings.
The ValleyCats fall to 16-24 on the year after the loss.
Another new addition
Jordan Brewer, the University of Michigan product who won the Big Ten Player of the Year award and was the Astros’ third round pick this year, made his professional debut Saturday. He was the designated hitter and batted second but went 0-5.
Juan Paulino, who played left field, made a fantastic running catch while slamming into the wall in the seventh inning, hurt his leg on the play. He stayed in the game, but Guillen does not expect Paulino to play on Sunday.
The Tigers and ValleyCats will finish off the series on Sunday at 5 p.m. Kyle Serrano is the probable for the ‘Cats, while Jack O’Loughlin will go for Connecticut.