Thursday's 7-4 victory over Jamestown sets up a weekend showdown in Auburn, N.Y.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Welcome to a pennant race, minor league baseball style.
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers will try to cool the hottest team in the New York-Penn League tonight in Auburn, N.Y. A division title and playoff berth are at stake.
Mahoning Valley begins a five-game road trip against the Pinckney Division-leading Doubledays, who have won 12 of their last 13 games.
"It's in our hands," Scrappers manager Chris Bando said of his team's opportunity.
The Scrappers, coming off a 7-4 victory over the Jamestown Jammers on Thursday at Cafaro Field, trail Auburn by four games in the division and can make up ground in the two-game series.
The teams play five more games, all at Diethrick Park, where Auburn holds a 20-4 record.
"Guys want to make the playoffs and they want to win," Bando said. "Regardless of what level, winning is winning and the playoffs are the playoffs. It's an exciting time for them."
With 19 games remaining, the playoff race involves five teams.
Staten Island (McNamara Division), Auburn (Pinckney) and Oneonta (Stedler) lead their respective divisions and would automatically qualify for the postseason.
The fourth playoff spot goes to the team with the next-best record. Williamsport (34-23) owns that position by one game over the Scrappers (33-24).
"All the guys that were called up or have gone all left notes -- 'Get a ring for me; save me a ring. If you guys make it, I want to come back,' " Bando said. "It's good to see them thinking in those terms without us having to say anything."
Mahoning Valley took two out of three games against Jamestown (24-30) by jumping on Jammers starter Ross Wolf for six runs in the first two innings.
"We have to get out early, and when we do that we're pretty successful," Bando said. "Hopefully it will be a pattern for us in Auburn."
In the Scrappers' four-run second inning, Bill Peavey hit his second home run in as many nights and third of the season. He reached base in all four at-bats, walking three times.
"Look at his on-base percentage," Bando said. "For a big guy who will eventually drive the ball a long way, he's got a very good eye. He's selective at the plate."
Scrappers left-hander Victor Kleine continued his turnaround from a 1-8 record last season. He allowed three runs on six hits in five innings to raise his record to 7-2.
"That's due more in part to run support and great defense," Kleine said. "For me, there's more of a rhythm and that definitely helps."
Simon Young and Dan Rich relieved Kleine, with Rich getting his fourth save on three pitches in the ninth.
"The arm's not an issue anymore at all. I just need to work on locating the ball," said Young, who is coming back from shoulder surgery.
Ben Francisco, who continues to lead the league in batting (.395), went 2-for-4 and scored twice as the leadoff hitter. Eider Torres, batting behind Francisco, showed off his ability, as well, with two hits, an RBI, a run scored and two stolen bases.
"Every winning team has two guys at the top of the lineup that can make things happen," Bando said. "That sets our whole lineup up."
After two games in Auburn, the Scrappers will play a three-game series in Massachusetts against the Lowell Spinners. They return home Aug. 22 against New Jersey.
Reed cf5000Francisco cf4220
Ordorica 3b4222Torres ss4121
Randel ss3100Osborn 3b3110
Rohleder lf2010Peavey 1b1212
Hartig dh4021Haase c3000
Arlis c3001Baxter dh3001
Ortiz 1b4000Larkin 2b2011
Laidlaw rf4010Conroy rf4000
Wyant 2b4130Gomez lf3110
E--Laidlaw, Ordorica. DP--Jamestown 3, Mahoning Valley 1. LOB--Jamestown 6, Mahoning Valley 4. HR--Peavey, Ordorica. 2B--Osborn, Francisco. SH--Osborn. SF--Arlis. SB--Torres 2, Hartig. CS--Larkin.
Wolf L, 2-4256440
Kleine W, 7-2563326
WP--Kleine. Umpires--Home, Bill Coble; bases, Trevor Grieve. T--2:45. A--4,938.
HOW THEY SCORED
MAHONING VALLEY 2, JAMESTOWN 1
Jammers: Eric Reed grounded out to short. Eric Ordorica singled to left, advanced to second on a wild pitch. Kevin Randel struck out. Andy Rohleder walked, Phil Hartig singled to right, Ordorica scored, Rohleder to third. Patrick Arlis flied out to second. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left.
Scrappers: Ben Francisco flied out to right. Eider Torres lined out to first. Pat Osborn doubled to left field, Bill Peavey walked, Jeff Haase walked to load the bases. Andrew Baxter walked, Osborn scored, Peavey to third, Haase to second. Shaun Larkin walked, Peavey scored, Haase to third, Baxter to second. Mike Conroy flied out to third. 2 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 3 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 6, JAMESTOWN 1
Scrappers: Hose Gomez singled to left center, Francisco singled to right center, advanced to second on an error by the right-fielder, Gomez scored. Torres singled in the infield, advanced to second on an error by the third baseman, Francisco scored. Osborn bunted to sacrifice Torres to third. Peavey homered over the right-field wall, Torres scored. Haase grounded out to short. Baxter flied out to right. 4 runs, 3 hits, 2 errors, 0 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 7, JAMESTOWN 1
Scrappers: Francisco doubled to the right center field gap, Torres singled up the middle, Francisco scored. Torres stole second. Osborn flied out to center. Torres stole third. Peavey walked, Haase hit into a double play, Peavey out at second. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 7, JAMESTOWN 3
Jammers: Hunter Wyant singled to right, Reed struck out. Ordorica homered over the left-field wall, Wyant scored. Randel flied out to second. Rohleder struck out. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 7, JAMESTOWN 4
Jammers: Randel walked, Rohleder singled to left, Randel to second. Hartig flied out to left, Randel tagged and went to third. Arlis flied out to right to sacrifice Randel home. Dan Ortiz hit into a fielder's choice, Rohleder out at second. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left.