The Scrappers are one win away from advancing to the championship series.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- The Mahoning Valley Scrappers spent Saturday night spraying one another with champagne and celebrating in the bullpen at Batavia's Dwyer Stadium.
A New York-Penn League playoff berth was the special occasion.
"Everybody knew we were in a chase. We just went about our business every day," Scrappers manager Mike Sarbaugh said. "We didn't have any real highs or lows; we just played our game."
Two nights after their memorable experience in Batavia, the Scrappers put themselves in position for another monumental achievement by humbling Pinckney Division champion Auburn.
Brett Parker's triple scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning Monday as the Scrappers defeated Auburn 4-3 in a playoff opener at Eastwood Field.
"We really needed that, especially going to their place now," Sarbaugh said.
The league's best-of-3 semifinal series shifts to Auburn, N.Y., tonight with the Scrappers needing one win to advance to the championship series against Brooklyn or Tri-City.
Brooklyn defeated Tri-City 2-0 Monday in their opener.
"This team has always had a knack of pushing back when they've been pushed a little bit," Auburn manager Dennis Holmberg said. "This is an incredible opportunity for them to push back and win this thing."
Auburn, a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate, entered the series having dominated the Scrappers during the regular season, winning 11 of their 15 games. Monday, that mattered little in front of 2,400 fans.
"We've battled each other all year," Holmberg said. "Now instead of 15 games, we're playing three games. Everybody's got to be Johnny on the spot."
In a game that featured four lead changes, the Scrappers had the final say, and it began with Wyatt Toregas' strange double in the decisive eighth.
Toregas hit a towering fly to left field that Auburn left fielder Adam Lind misplayed, with the ball bouncing just inside the line. A strong wind also may have affected the ball.
"It wasn't an easy night for fly balls, that's for sure," Sarbaugh said.
Either way, Parker took advantage two batters later, driving a liner into the right center field gap to score Toregas with the winning run.
"I was a little anxious, but I tried to relax," Parker said. "He gave me a fastball pretty much down the middle and I put a swing on it."
Sarbaugh added, "That was the ballgame, really. I had a feeling they would go after him because [Fernando] Pacheco [who followed Parker] had been swinging the bat well all night."
On the mound
Pitcher Justin Hoyman, the Cleveland Indians' second-round draft pick, provided the Scrappers with a strong start.
The right-hander from Florida allowed one run on four hits in five innings -- the deepest he's pitched into a game as a professional.
"For him to get five [innings] in 63 pitches, you can't ask for much better than that," Sarbaugh said. "He's been throwing that way since he got here."
Before reliever Mike Hernandez (2-0) protected the lead in the ninth inning, the game was delayed for 25 minutes because Eastwood Field partially lost power.
"It was bad timing for us," said Sarbaugh, who's team was three outs from victory.
Mahoning Valley maintained its momentum. Hernandez induced a 5-4-3 double play to end the game, and players sprinted onto the field to celebrate and prepare for their nighttime trip to New York.
"The best way to go about playoffs is keep it like it's a regular season game," Sarbaugh said. "The players know what the situation is, so if you have to motivate them, something's not right."
Mathews cf5000Reyes cf3010
Klosterman ss4110Finegan ss4012
Esposito 3b4000Gimenez 3b4010
Nielsen rf3020Butia dh4010
Lind lf4031Toregas c4110
Hall 2b4000Montgomry lf4120
Cannon 1b3010Parker 2b4011
Metropls dh3110Pacheco 1b4231
Corrente c4112Encarnacn rf3000
DP--Scrappers 2, Auburn 1. LOB--Scrappers 7, Auburn 7. HR--Corrente. 3B--Montgomery, Parker. 2B--Cannon, Gimenez, Montgomery, Toregas.
Rodriguez L, 5-41 2-342201
Hernandez W, 2-0220012
WP--Purcey 2, Rodriguez 2. HBP--by Purcey (Reyes). Umpires--Home, Vic Carapazza; First, Tom Clark; Second, Howard Perez; Third, Phil Mulroe. T--2:28. A--2,444.
HOW THEY SCORED
AUBURN 1, MAHONING VALLEY 0
Doubledays: Justin Hoyman pitching. Ryan Klosterman singled to center, Vincent Esposito flied out to left. Eric Nielsen walked, Klosterman to second. Adam Lind singled to left, Klosterman scored, Nielsen to second. Brian Hall flied out to the shortstop. Chip Cannon walked to load the bases, Nielsen to third, Lind to second. Joey Metropoulos struck out. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 3 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 2, AUBURN 1
Scrappers: David Purcey pitching. Tim Montgomery doubled to left center, Brett Parker flied out to the pitcher. Fernando Pacheco singled to left, Montgomery scored. Pacheco advanced to second on a wild pitch. Teo Encarnacion struck out. Argenis Reyes hit by pitch. Brian Finegan singled to left, Pacheco scored, Reyes to second. Chris Gimenez flied out to second. 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left.
AUBURN 3, MAHONING VALLEY 3
Doubledays: Nelson Hiraldo pitching. Cannon struck out. Metropoulos singled in the infield, David Corrente homered over the left-field wall, Metropoulos scored. Aaron Mathews struck out. Klosterman flied out to first. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left.
Scrappers: Jayson Rodriguez pitching. Pacheco singled to right, Encarnacion flied out to short. Pacheco advanced to second on a wild pitch. Reyes singled to left, Pacheco to third. Finegan grounded out to short, Pacheco scored, Reyes to second. Gimenez flied out to left. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.
MAHONING VALLEY 4, AUBURN 3
Scrappers: Rodriguez pitching. Mike Butia lined out to third. Wyatt Toregas doubled to left, advanced to third on a wild pitch. Montgomery struck out. Parker tripled to right center, Toregas scored. Dewon Day in to pitch. Pacheco grounded out to short. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left.