By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- If the New York-Penn League were a bicycle race, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers might be wearing yellow jerseys.
The Scrappers (17-15) have won eight of their last 10 games, including Tuesday's 4-1 decision over the Hudson Valley Renegades at Eastwood Field.
The Scrappers, who were 5-10 on July 2, got good pitching, timely hitting and top-notch defense in the win over the Renegades (18-14).
"With everything, with the home runs, and with the pitching and the defense, that's one of our best games this year," Scrappers manager Mike Sarbaugh said.
He noted the team has just one error in its last four starts.
"We've been playing outstanding defense," Sarbaugh said.
They have won their last five series.
Still going strong
Scrappers pitcher Dan Cevette has become the Lance Armstrong of the group.
Cevette (3-0), who has the second-best ERA in the league (1.41), allowed just one single in four innings of scoreless work. He retired the final 10 hitters he faced.
Cevette combined with Matt Haynes (3-2) and Matt Knox on a six-hitter, with just one walk.
Mahoning Valley clung to a 1-0 lead after three innings. Then the big bats took their toll.
Brett Parker led off the fourth inning and worked his way to a three-ball, one-strike count. He thought the next pitch was outside and started to first, but the umpire called it a strike.
Parker drilled the next pitch over the fence in left for a 360-foot homer, his second of the year.
Wyatt Toregas was hit by a pitch, bringing Mike Butia to the plate.
Butia's 372-foot homer to right made it 4-0 and erased all doubt to the final outcome.
"My first at-bat he threw me a fastball and I was a little bit late on it," Butia said.
"It felt good coming off the bat," he said of his second homer of the year. "I wasn't 100 percent sure, but I got the good backspin on it."
Finishing the job
Braced by the 4-0 lead, the Scrappers settled in for a workmanlike effort the rest of the way.
Some fine defense didn't hurt either.
Fernando Pacheco snared a tough ground ball at first base in the first inning for an out and Parker backhanded a hard ground ball over the bag at third base and his throw recorded another out.
Then, in the sixth with a runner on first base, a Hudson Valley hitter laced a ball up the middle for an apparent base hit. Shortstop Brian Finegan went to the right of the bag to field it and his adroit toss to second ended the threat.
"It was routine," said Finegan of the play. "Once I got it down, it's pretty routine."
Maybe that's when you know a team is playing well -- when they make the tough plays seem commonplace.
HUDSON VALLEYMAHONING VALLEY
Perez cf4000Reyes 2b4120
Asanovich 2b4110Parker 3b 4111
Leandro lf3010Toregas c3101
Baty 1b4021Butia lf2112
Cottrell 3b3000Gimenez dh3020
Nowak dh4000Montgmry cf3000
Frias rf3000Encarnacion rf 3000
Breen rf1000Pacheco 1b3000
Matthew c4010Finegan ss 3000
LOB--Renegades 8, Scrappers 2. 2B--Paredes. HR--Parker, Butia. SB--Reyes 2.
Mann L, 2-25 1-364404
Haynes W, 3-2320002
Knox S, 2231102
Umpires--Home, Howad Perez; Bases, Bill Mulros. T--2:08. A--3,573.