By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
UTICA, N.Y. -- The Mahoning Valley Scrappers of 2000 had a knack for winning games at the end.
Maybe it's not fair to compare. Maybe it's too early to judge.
But the Scrappers' 7-6 loss to Utica in 13 innings Wednesday at Donovan Stadium didn't go the way as many games of last year.
Even Curtis Gay's solo home run to open the 13th inning couldn't save the Scrappers, who have dropped the first two games of the New York-Penn League season.
Mahoning Valley will play at Utica tonight and Friday, before returning Saturday for its home opener against Williamsport at Cafaro Field.
Hurt chances: As many times as Mahoning Valley put itself in position to win Wednesday, it decimated its chances with unnerving plays.
"We're finding out what we have," Scrappers manager Dave Turgeon said of the game experiences.
The Scrappers built three different leads -- 4-0, 5-4 and 6-5 -- but failed to hold them.
The trouble began in the ninth inning, with Mahoning Valley already leading 5-4.
With runners on second and third and two outs, the Scrappers' John Van Every lined a ball to Utica shortstop Rex Rundgren, who jumped to grab the ball before it popped out of his glove.
Thinking the out was made, Van Every stopped short of first base, and Rundgren fired there for the third out.
No assumptions: "We're trained to run everything out, and yes he should have run the ball out," Turgeon said. "You don't assume anything in this game because the one time you do, stuff like that happens."
An extra run would have been valuable after Scrappers pitcher Nate Fernley helped Utica score the tying run in the bottom half.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Utica's Michael Tucker hit a ball back to Fernley, who looked toward third base for the force out. But Fernley threw the ball away, allowing the tying run to score.
"Those things happen," Turgeon said. "Physical errors are part of the game. He'll get the next one. I'm not going to worry about it."
Gay connects: The score remained tied until the first pitch of the 13th inning, when Gay, who was with the Scrappers in 1999, homered off Utica pitcher Ronnie Goodwin for a 6-5 lead.
"I expect a lot from Curtis," Turgeon said. "He's a veteran guy. He's shown some quiet leadership -- because he's a quiet guy. He leads by example. He came up in a big situation, and he came through for us."
But Utica converted two singles and two walks off Brian Farman in the 13th into the game-winning runs. Jonathan Asahima's RBI single to left field ended the game.
"How many jams did we pitch out of? How many big hits did we get? How many big plays did we make? How many big pitches did we make?" Turgeon said. "There were a lot of positives."
Opened 4-0 lead: Especially in the first inning, when Mahoning Valley opened a 4-0 lead with the help of three Utica errors.
"Our defense was so bad in the first inning that we gave up four runs," Utica manager Kevin Boles said. "But, just the way we came back all night was tremendous. It showed a lot of heart."
Scrappers starter Victor Kleine couldn't hold the lead. He allowed four runs, including Jacob Laidlaw's solo home run that tied the score 4-4 in the fifth.
"He wasn't bad," Turgeon said of Kleine. "He kept us in the game. When he left, it was 4-4. Our starter's job is to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win. He did that. Can he do better? Yes, he can."
Kleine was relieved by Todd Culp, Chris Cooper, Fernley and Farman. Culp was impressive in his 2 2/3 innings, getting out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings.
Made 2b5000Rundgren ss7001
Van Every cf5220Asahima dh7141
Quintana rf4110Hicks rf6131
Morton dh4100Laidlaw lf6241
Gay 1b5222Hartig 1b5031
Finnerty 3b6001Tucker 3b6120
Myers c6021Frazier cf5110
Thompson lf4000Wyant 2b5020
Santini lf2010Alvarez c1100
Uegawachi ss6010Louwsma ph0000
E -- Wyant 2, Rundgren 2, Hicks, Fernley, Uegawachi. DP -- Mahoning Valley 3, Utica 2. LOB -- Utica 21, Mahoning Valley 9. HR -- Gay, Laidlaw. SB -- Made, Uegawachi. CS -- Wyant, Van Every. SH -- Morton, Rundgren, Hicks, Wyant. SF -- Frazier.
Farman L, 0-12 1-342221
Goodwin W, 1-0461111
WP -- Kupper 2. HBP -- Asahima (by Kleine). PB -- Alvarez 2, Myers, Zapay. T -- 3:40.
HOW THEY SCOREDFIRST INNINGSCRAPPERS 4, BLUE SOX 2
Scrappers: Maximo Made grounded out to first. Jonathan Van Every singled to left, Miguel Quintana reached on an error by the second baseman. Rickie Morton reached on an error by the right fielder, Van Every scored. Curtis Gay singled in the infield, Quintana scored. Francis Finnerty reached on a fielder's choice, Morton scored. Kenton Myers grounded out to third, Gay scored. Eric Thompson struck out. 4 runs, 2 hits, 3 errors, 1 left.
Blue Sox: Rex Rundgren grounded out to the pitcher. Jonathan Asahima was hit by a pitch, Scott Hicks singled to right, Jacob Laidlaw singled to right to load the bases. Philip Hartig singled to right, Asahima scored. Michael Tucker struck out swinging, but Hicks scored on a passed ball. Charlie Frazier struck out. 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left.
SCRAPPERS 4, BLUE SOX 3
Blue Sox: Hunter Wyant grounded out to first. Aaron Alvarez walked, Rundgren struck out. Asahima singled to right, Hicks singled to right, Alvarez scored. Laidlaw flied out to center. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left.
SCRAPPERS 4, BLUE SOX 4
Blue Sox: Laidlaw homered over the left field wall. Hartig singled to right, Tucker struck out. Frazier singled in the infield, Wyant singled to right to load the bases. Alvarez struck out. Rundgren struck out. 1 run, 4 hits, 0 errors, 3 left.
SCRAPPERS 5, BLUE SOX 4
Scrappers: Van Every walked, Quintana walked, Morton bunted to sacrifice Van Every to third, Quintana to second. Gay flied out to short. Van Every scored on a passed ball. Finnerty grounded out to second. 1 run, 0 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.
SCRAPPERS 5, BLUE SOX 5
Blue Sox: Laidlaw singled to left, Hartig walked, Tucker reached on a fielder's choice when pitcher threw ball away at third for error, Laidlaw scored. Frazier flied out to right to sacrifice Hartig to third, Tucker to second. Wyant walked to load the bases. Winton Zapay struck out. Rundgren grounded out. 1 run, 1 hit, 1 error, 3 left.
BLUE SOX 7, SCRAPPERS 6
Scrappers: Gay homered over the right center field wall. Finnerty flied out to left. Myers singled to left, Travis Santini flied out to center. Bryce Uegawachi struck out. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.
Blue Sox: Tucker singled to right, Frazier walked. Wyant bunted to sacrifice Tucker to third, Frazier to second. Zapay was intentionally walked to load the bases. Rundgren reached on a fielder's choice, Tucker scored. Asahima singled to left, Frazier scored. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 3 left.