Mahoning Valley fell three games behind Auburn before the largest crowd of the season at Cafaro Field.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Even if the Mahoning Valley Scrappers salvage tonight's home game against the Auburn Doubledays, the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League may have to be won on the road.
After losing to first-place Auburn 1-0 Sunday at Cafaro Field and falling three games back of the lead, the Scrappers will complete the two-game home series tonight.
But after that, the two teams will finish their series with five games in Auburn, N.Y.
"To be a championship team, you have to win on the road," said Scrappers third baseman Pat Osborn.
Which is exactly what Auburn did Sunday in front of the biggest crowd (6,336) at Cafaro Field this season.
Pitching stops hitting
Auburn's pitching shut down a Scrappers offense that had scored a combined 22 runs in games Friday and Saturday against Tri-City.
"We were hoping to carry that into today, but that's the way baseball is sometimes," Osborn said of a team's offense.
Doubledays starter Chad Pleiness (6-2), a 6-foot-6 right-hander, stymied Scrapper batters through six innings, allowing Mahoning Valley's only two hits of the game.
"We know that they've got good pitching," Scrappers manager Chris Bando said. "They have a good rotation, so we've got to beat their starters to win."
Auburn's Justin Maureau pitched the final three innings for his fourth save of the season.
"We have a good chance to beat this team," said Keith Ramsey, the Scrappers' starting pitcher Sunday. "We're on their tails and I think they're feeling the pressure. We need to get these wins."
The Scrappers got base runners to third base in the second, fourth and sixth innings but failed to score.
"We had chances but just didn't capitalize," said Osborn, who had five RBIs Saturday. "Things didn't go our away. Keith [Ramsey] pitched a helluva game, but he didn't get any support."
A 10th-round draft pick from the University of Florida, Ramsey (3-2) nearly matched Pleiness' effectiveness on the mound.
Ramsey, a left-hander from Los Angeles, allowed one run on four hits in six innings. Auburn's only run came on an RBI bloop triple by Nom Siriveaw in the fifth inning.
"Anytime you give up one run, that's doing your job, and he did it against the best-hitting team, at least statistically, in the league," Bando said.
It was the triple that hurt Ramsey. With Jason Owens on first base, Siriveaw sent an arcing ball into right field that bounced and then rolled past Scrappers right-fielder Hose Gomez to produce the game's only run.
"They didn't exactly drive that run in," Bando said. "But it's smart hitting. You've got to hit it where they ain't."
Scrapper relievers Kevin Martin and Michael Hernandez allowed one hit in the final three innings.
Mahoning Valley's only hits were singles by Ben Francisco, the league's batting leader, and Bill Peavey.
The Scrappers (31-22) held first place for a short time this season, but it has been an elusive spot for them. Games against Auburn (34-19) allow Mahoning Valley to control its own destiny.
After tonight, the teams will meet again Friday and Saturday and Aug. 27-29 in Auburn.
"We've got five [road] games left with them this season, so we're looking forward to playing them at Auburn," Bando said. "We'll see what happens."
Hassey ss3000Francisco cf4010
Arnold 2b4000Torres ss3000
Waugh cf4000Osborn 3b4000
Johnston 1b3010Baxter 1b3000
Porfirio lf3010Haase c3000
Owens rf4120Peavey dh3010
German 3b4000Larkin 2b3000
Richmond c4000Gomez rf3000
Siriveaw dh3011Conroy lf3000
E--Hassey, Pleiness, Baxter, Arnold. DP--Auburn 1. LOB--Auburn 7, Mahoning Valley 5. 3B--Siriveaw. 2B--Porfirio. SH--Hassey.
Pleiness W, 6-2620034
Maureau S, 4300002
Ramsey L, 3-2641104
WP--Ramsey. HBP--by Ramsey (Johnston). Umpires--Home, Justin Vogle; bases, Josh Carlyle. T--2:15. A--6,336.
HOW THEY SCORED
AUBURN 1, MAHONING VALLEY 0
Doubledays: Jason Owens singled to right, Cesar German flied out to first. Paul Richmond flied out to center. Nom Siriveaw tripled to right, Owens scored. Brad Hassey grounded out to second. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.