By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- This much is certain: the New York-Penn League regular season will end tonight at Cafaro Field. Whether the Mahoning Valley Scrappers qualify for the playoffs is still unknown.
The Scrappers' 2002 season has come down to one final game, in which their playoff hopes rest, against the Jamestown Jammers.
"It's a must win," Scrappers manager Chris Bando said. "We've got to win to give ourselves a chance."
There are no truer words, because the Scrappers no longer control their own destiny.
"It's another day," Scrappers catcher Jeff Haase said of the finale. "We're not out of this yet."
If Mahoning Valley (45-30) has any chance of reaching the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, it must beat Jamestown (32-41) tonight and hope Auburn loses to Batavia.
That didn't happen Tuesday night -- the Scrappers lost to Jamestown 10-8 in 10 innings and Auburn beat Batavia 3-0, setting up the final scenario in the Pinckney Division.
"It's been do or die in every game we've played in the last couple of weeks," Bando said. "The intensity's been high and guys have been playing hard."
If Mahoning Valley and Auburn end the regular season with identical records, they would play one game Thursday night in Auburn, N.Y., to determine the final playoff participant.
Three of the league's four playoff berths have been set, with Oneonta, Staten Island and Williamsport already qualifying.
In one of the wildest nights at Cafaro Field, the Scrappers fell one game behind Auburn with their extra-inning defeat Tuesday.
Mahoning Valley held leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 5-4 but still lost the 3 hour, 56-minute game, which ended at 11:33 p.m., after a combined 18 runs and 29 hits against nine pitchers.
"It had fog, it had rain. We're ahead, they're ahead," Bando said. "We can't hang our heads. We never quit."
Jamestown scored its go-ahead runs off Scrappers reliever Simon Young in the 10th inning. Young (0-2) walked three batters in the 10th, including one with the bases loaded.
"They just pitched better than we did," Bando said.
On an eerie night when heavy fog rolled into Cafaro Field, a seventh-inning play resulted in controversy and may have had a large impact on the game.
Scrappers batter Shaun Larkin lined a ball toward the right-field wall. The second baseman thought he had his 10th home run, a two-run shot that would have given the Scrappers a 6-4 lead.
"I was in my trot, man," Larkin said.
But Larkin was thrown out at third base by Jamestown. With Bando arguing and fans chanting "Home run! Home run!", the confusion began.
"I thought it went in the bullpen, but I guess not," Larkin said of his hit.
Umpires ruled the ball had hit off the wall and bounced back into play. Many Scrappers fans thought otherwise. Some thought the ball may have hit a batting cage bar behind the wall and bounced back into play.
"It's tough to tell," Bando said. "I knew it hit something and bounced back. Whether it was the cage or the top of the fence, it wasn't an easy call."
Bando admitted that he thought the ball went over the wall, "but there's no excuse not to run hard. [Larkin's] mistake was not running hard. You don't assume it's a home run until the umpire calls it."
Umpires told Bando the ball hit off the top of the wall and bounced back, where Jamestown center-fielder Andy Rohleder corralled it and began the 8-6-5 putout.
The run was magnified when Haase, the pinch hitter, tied the score 6-6 with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. The extra run would have given Mahoning Valley the victory, something it will certainly need tonight.
Ordorica 2b6000Francisco lf5231
Randel dh6110Diaz c4110
Hermida rf5001Wright rf6033
Rohleder cf4100Peavey dh3010
Apotheker lf4130Baxter 1b4100
Lepine c4330Larkin 2b5011
Word 1b4113Osborn 3b4110
Andino ss5123Uegawachi ss4120
Puccinelli 3b4032Rojas cf4012
Laidlaw pr/lf1210Wallace c2110
Ortiz 1b0000Haase ph1011
E--Uegawachi. DP--Jamestown 1. LOB--Mahoning Valley 13, Jamestown 7. HR--Francisco. 3B--Lepine, Andino, Randel. 2B--Diaz, Uegawachi, Larkin, Puccinelli, Peavey, Laidlaw, Wallace, Wright, Word, Andino. SF--Puccinelli. SB--Wright 2, Baxter.
Bazardo W, 5-01 2-331111
Young L, 0-22-314431
HBP--by Warpinski (Peavey). Umpires--Matt Kellam, home; Jason Bradley, bases. T--3:56. A--4,005.
HOW THEY SCORED
MAHONING VALLEY 1, JAMESTOWN 0
Scrappers: Ben Francisco homered down the left-field line. Einar Diaz grounded out to short. Brian Wright flied out to third. Bill Peavey was hit by pitch, Andy Baxter walked, Peavey to second. Shaun Larkin walked to load the bases, Peavey to third, Baxter to second. Pat Osborn struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 3 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 2, JAMESTOWN 0
Scrappers: Diaz doubled to left, Wright singled up the middle, Diaz scored. Peavey walked, Baxter struck out. Larkin struck out. Osborn flied out to center. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 2, JAMESTOWN 2
Jammers: Andy Rohleder struck out. Joe Apotheker singled to center, Olivier Lepine singled to left, Apotheker to second. Rob Word doubled to right center, Apotheker, Lepine scored. Robert Andino struck out. John Puccinelli singled to right, Word to third. Eric Ordorica struck out. 2 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 2 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 4, JAMESTOWN 2
Scrappers: Larkin struck out. Osborn singled to left, Bryce Uegawachi doubled to left, Osborn to third. Ricardo Rojas singled to left, Osborn, Uegawachi scored. Francisco reached first on a bunt, Rojas to second. Diaz hit into a 6-4-3 double play. 2 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 2 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 5, JAMESTOWN 4
Jammers: Apotheker grounded out to second. Lepine tripled down the right-field line, Word struck out. Andino tripled down the right-field line, Lepine scored. Puccinelli singled to left, Andino scored. Ordorica popped out to second. 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.
Scrappers: Wright lined out to right. Peavey grounded out back to the pitcher. Baxter walked, stole second. Larkin doubled to right, Baxter scored, Larkin thrown out trying to advance to third. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left.
JAMESTOWN 6, MAHONING VALLEY 5
Jammers: Kevin Randel tripled to right center, Jeremy Hermida grounded out back to the pitcher, Randel scored. Rohleder struck out. Apotheker singled in the infield, Lepine singled in the infield, Apotheker to second. Jacob Laidlaw pinch ran for Apotheker. Word reached on an error by the shortstop, Laidlaw scored, Lepine to third, Word to second. Andino grounded out to second. 2 runs, 3 hits, 1 error, 2 left.
JAMESTOWN 6, MAHONING VALLEY 6
Scrappers: Peavey doubled to right center, replaced by pinch runner Hose Gomez. Baxter grounded out to first, Gomez to third. Larkin flied out to short. Osborn walked, pinch hitter Jeff Haase singled up the middle, Gomez scored. Rojas flied out to center. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left.
JAMESTOWN 10, MAHONING VALLEY 8
Jammers: Rohleder walked, Laidlaw doubled to right, Rohleder to third. Lepine was intentionally walked to load the bases. Daniel Ortiz walked, Rohleder scored, Laidlaw to third, Lepine to second. Andino doubled to left, Laidlaw, Lepine scored, Ortiz to third. Puccinelli flied out to right to sacrifice Ortiz home. Ordorica grounded out to third. Randel flied out to third. 4 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.
Scrappers: Francisco walked, Wallace doubled to left, Francisco to third. Wright doubled to left, Francisco, Wallace scored. Mike Conroy struck out. Baxter flied out to short. Larkin lined out to center. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.