Brett Parker's hit gave the Scrappers a 6-5 win in Game 1 of the playoffs.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Two senses told Brett Parker he had delivered another playoff win for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
As he looked up while running to first base, Parker saw coach Jim Rickon celebrating.
Then Parker heard cheers from 3,700 fans during Game 1 of the New York-Penn League championship series Sunday at Eastwood Field.
It was that crowd noise that Parker had blocked out seconds earlier during his clutch at-bat in the ninth inning against Tri-City.
With two outs and Mike Butia representing the winning run at second base, Parker lined a single to center field that dropped in front of Tri-City's Hunter Pence.
"When I hit it, I was like, 'Get down,' because I didn't want it to carry too much into the outfield," Parker said. "I just made sure to touch first base. Then I just started celebrating."
Butia scored and Parker was mobbed by teammates as the Scrappers defeated Tri-City 6-5 to move within one win of the team's first league championship.
That opportunity in the best-of-3 series comes in Game 2 tonight in Troy, N.Y.
"You've still got to win two games to win the series, so the season's not over," Tri-City manager Gregg Langbehn said. "It's no different than the first round against Brooklyn when we lost the first game. There's just a little more urgency now."
A host of Scrappers contributed to a game in which Parker, a native of Mobile, Ala., finished.
The second baseman, who also played for Mahoning Valley last season, had the winning hit in Game 1 of the semifinal series against Auburn.
His triple in the eighth inning helped Mahoning Valley defeat the Doubledays 4-3, and the Scrappers completed the sweep the next day.
Could it happen again?
"We were real relaxed going into Auburn [for Game 2 of the semifinal series]. We played our game and ended up taking it to them," Parker said. "It's the same feeling going into [tonight's] game. All the pressure is on them -- they have to win two in a row."
Tri-City, a Houston Astros affiliate, took command in the fourth inning when Lou Santangelo hit a grand slam off Aaron Laffey to erase the Scrappers' 2-0 lead.
"I had confidence in our offense," said Scrappers manager Mike Sarbaugh, whose team has won 14 of 17 games and six straight. "We've been doing it all year long."
That deficit didn't faze the Scrappers' Chris Gimenez, whose two-run double in the seventh tied the score 4-4, or Butia, who drove home Gimenez for a 5-4 lead.
"We just battled back," Parker said. "That's what we've been doing. You get down, you've got to battle back."
Mike Hernandez's wild pitch allowed Tri-City to force another tie in the eighth before Parker's heroics in the ninth.
"He's worked on his approach at the plate all year long, and I think it's starting to show here toward the end of the season," Sarbaugh said of Parker. "Especially in pressure situations."
Pitcher Matt Knox also came through in a pressure situation to earn the win for Mahoning Valley.
Knox relieved the struggling Hernandez with no outs in the eighth and the score tied 5-5. Knox also pitched a scoreless ninth, giving Parker his chance at the plate.
"I didn't want to go to Knox that quick, but in that situation I felt this game was very important to us," Sarbaugh said. "He stepped up for us tonight, and it was huge."