He was involved in almost every big play in Sunday's game.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Wyatt Toregas didn't mind letting his post-game dinner get cold this time.
Still dressed in his dirty uniform, Toregas signed all the autographs he could after the Mahoning Valley Scrappers beat the Tri-City ValleyCats Sunday in the first game of the New York-Penn League's championship series.
Some time after the thrilling, 6-5 victory, a group of approximately 25 fans waited patiently at the right-field fence of Eastwood Field as Toregas gave each admirer a signature and a warm smile.
His greatest fan -- his mother Laura -- was still in her seat, resting before her 300-mile drive back to Ashburn, Va.
Toregas' parents attended the team's opener and then took in six road games during the season.
Big factor in game
Toregas was a part of almost every big play in a game that put the Scrappers into the improbable position of winning the NYPL's title.
"Everything I did tonight worked out positive, even though at first it might have been negative," said the .294 hitter.
In the second inning, he reached on an error and scored the first run of the game.
"I was putting the ball in play and good things were working for the team," Toregas said. "I was getting on base and then they'd knock me in."
His ground-rule double in the third inning plated Brian Finegan for a 2-0 lead.
Then the ValleyCats got a grand-slam home run by Lou Santangelo to go in front 4-2 in the fourth.
"He was throwing the ball inside to me all day," Santangelo said of Mahoning Valley starter Aaron Laffey.
"He kind of left one out over the middle that time. I like the ball out over the middle of the plate to go the other way. I knew he had to come with something fat because it's 3-2, bases loaded. I was just sitting on dead red fastball."
Singled during rally
Mahoning Valley scored three times in the seventh inning to lead again, 5-4. Toregas singled in the rally.
"I think the one thing we've been doing a lot lately -- the game against Auburn here last week same thing, we got up early, went down, came right back -- we know we can come back from it. We're not worried [about trailing]," Toregas said.
Although the ValleyCats scored once in the eighth inning to tie it at 5, matters could have gotten worse if not for a thrilling play at the plate.
With a runner on first base and two out, a hitter singled to right field. The runner was tagged out at the plate when the Scrappers' Teo Encarnacion made a two-hop throw from the outfield to Toregas.
The Scrappers, who have been the hottest team in the league -- 21-7 since August 8 -- manufactured the winning run in the ninth.
With one out Mike Butia walked and Toregas reached on a fielding error. Brett Parker singled to center, scoring Butia with the winner.
"It seemed like after he would catch three or four games in a row, his concentration would leave him a little bit and he wasn't as intense," Scrappers manager Mike Sarbaugh said of Toregas.
"I told him that he was going to be in there the last 10 days of the season and he really stepped up. The mental side has really played into it, and he's done a great job the last couple of weeks."
He hit .302 in the last 10 games of the season, including an 8-for-22 stretch (.364) in the final five games.