SCRAPPERS NOTEBOOK From Utica, N.Y.
Making strides: After being held to three hits in the season opener Tuesday, the Scrappers struggled again Wednesday to find openings in Utica's defense. After two hits in the first inning, Mahoning Valley didn't record another hit until the ninth; it finished with nine hits. Still, manager Dave Turgeon isn't ready to push the panic button. "How many balls did we hit at them tonight? How many balls did we hit at them last night?," he said. "They're not hits, but they're hard-hit balls and quality at-bats. [Utica's] balls have found a lot of holes. Over the long haul, if we continue to hit balls the way we're hitting, we're going to score a lot of runs." Utica manager Kevin Boles agreed with Turgeon's outlook. "Our pitchers are throwing strikes, and they're going after the hitters," he conceded. "But, [the Scrappers] really haven't been swinging the bats that bad. They've hit some balls hard at us, but it just so happens that we've been in the right spots at the right times."
Oops: After helping to complete a double play in the seventh inning, first baseman Curtis Gay thought there were three outs. There were only two. With Utica's Philip Hartig at third, Gay casually tossed the ball to the ground near the pitcher's mound and began to walk toward the dugout. The Scrappers quickly realized the miscue and held Hartig at third. Reliever Todd Culp struck out the next batter to end the inning.
Time! There was a 10-minute delay in the fourth inning as the grounds crew worked to smooth out trouble spots at the front of the pitcher's mound.
Busy bullpen: Turgeon didn't expect to use four relief pitchers. As the game continued into extra innings, the manager joked that he would get a call to the mound. Instead, Todd Culp, Chris Cooper, Nate Fernley and Brian Farman did the work.
Center of attention: The Cleveland Indians' third-round draft pick, Nick Moran of Sacramento, Calif., will start the Scrappers' home opener Saturday against Williamsport. When told that he will take the mound in front of 6,000 fans at Cafaro Field, Moran wasn't fazed. He said crowds at Fresno State University, where he pitched the past three years, sometimes totaled around 4,000.
-- Brian Richesson