Mahoning Valley remains two games behind Auburn for first place in the Pinckney Division.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- The evaluation of talent means watching players react in difficult situations. Chris Bando knows this.
So when relief pitcher Michael Hernandez loaded the bases in the eighth inning Thursday, Bando, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers manager, watched intently.
He came away impressed.
Hernandez struck out the side to help preserve the Scrappers' 3-1 victory over the Tri-City ValleyCats at Cafaro Field. It was Mahoning Valley's ninth win in its last 11 games.
"He's a big-league pitcher. He doesn't panic," Bando said. "He's got a lot of heart and a lot of guts, and he excels in pressure situations."
The trouble in which Hernandez found himself was a byproduct of his own mistakes. Because he committed an error, allowed a single and hit a batter, Hernandez loaded the bases with nobody out and the Scrappers clinging to their 3-1 lead.
"The thing I was thinking about the whole time was, 'I got myself into this jam. I'm going to get out of this jam,' " said Hernandez, 21, a native of Fresno, Calif.
By using his slider effectively, Hernandez struck out Jake Whitesides, Jason Reuss and Nick Covarrubias to end Tri-City's threat. The pitcher pumped his fists and ran to the dugout.
"The crowd helped me out a lot. It really got me going," Hernandez said. "Every pitch, they were up yelling."
Hernandez pitched three innings, allowing no runs on three hits. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter. His final statistics, however, do not reveal the perseverance he showed.
"In college [Fresno State University], I would come into situations like that all the time," he said. "Bases loaded, no outs. I would pretty much do the same thing."
Dan Rich pitched a perfect ninth inning for his third save.
Slocum set tone
It was Scrappers starter Brian Slocum (3-0) who set the team's tone. The right-hander from Eastchester, N.Y., allowed one run on five hits in five innings, striking out four and walking one.
"Our starters have been doing a heck of a job," Bando said. "For Slocum, it was his third good start in a row. When your starters pitch deep in the game, you have a good chance to win. We've been able to do that."
Although the Scrappers got triples from Jonathan Van Every and Andrew Baxter and a double from Shaun Larkin, the team's runs were scored on simple plays.
Mahoning Valley scored once in each of the first three innings on Baxter's groundout, Bryce Uegawachi's single and Jeff Haase's sacrifice fly.
That was good enough for the Scrappers' pitching staff, which helped to keep the team (29-21) two games behind Auburn in the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League. The Doubledays (31-19) defeated Hudson Valley 5-0.
"The guys have been playing good baseball," Bando said. "We swung the bats good in Jamestown and our pitching's been very good. We're playing good enough to win, which is all you ask for."
Sandoval 2b4000Francisco cf4010
Topham ss5011Van Every rf4110
Macchi dh4010Baxter dh4111
Peavey 3b4010Haase c3011
McGarvey c3010Peavey 1b4000
Whitesides cf4010Larkin 2b3110
Reuss lf4010Conroy lf2000
Seuss rf3110Uegawachi ss3011
Salmela 1b4010Peguero 3b2020
E--Slocum, McGarvey, Uegawachi, Hernandez. LOB--Tri-City 10, Mahoning Valley 5. 3B--Van Every, Baxter. 2B--Larkin, Whitesides. SH--Conroy. SF--Haase. SB--Peguero. CS--Topham.
Westhoff L, 2-6683305
Slocum, W 3-0551114
Rich S, 3100000
WP--Hernandez. HBP--by Hernandez (McGarvey). Umpires--Josh Carlisle, home; Justin Vogle, bases. T--2:18. A--4,243.
HOW THEY SCORED
MAHONING VALLEY 1, TRI-CITY 0
Scrappers: Ben Francisco singled to left, thrown out trying to advance to second. Jonathan Van Every tripled to right, Andy Baxter grounded out to third, Van Every scored. Jeff Haase singled to right, Bill Peavey grounded out to first. 1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 2, TRI-CITY 0
Scrappers: Shaun Larkin doubled to left, Mike Conroy bunted to sacrifice Larkin to third. Bryce Uegawachi singled up the middle, Larkin scored. Miguel Peguero singled in the infield, Uegawachi to second. Francisco struck out. Van Every struck out. 1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 3, TRI-CITY 1
ValleyCats: Adam Seuss singled to right, Andy Salmela grounded out to third, Seuss to second. Jjalil Sandoval flied out to second. Andy Topham singled up the middle, Seuss scored. Topham was thrown out at second trying to steal. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left.
Scrappers: Baxter tripled to the right center field gap, Haase flied out to center to sacrifice Baxter home. Peavey flied out to right. Larkin lined out to short. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left.