By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- In his first professional at-bat in a little more than two months, Kevin Kouzmanoff stood in the batter's box, looked up at the scoreboard and saw something strange.
"I was like, 'What's that on my head?' " he said.
It was a computer generated sombrero. Thursday was Fiesta Night at Eastwood Field. And, other than getting a chance to play again, Kouzmanoff didn't have much to cheer about.
The third baseman, who missed the last two months with a back injury, was back in the Mahoning Valley for the first time since the 2003 season. He went 0-for-2 and committed a throwing error before coming out after three innings in the Scrappers' 5-0 loss to Staten Island in a New York-Penn League game.
"I was doing just terrible, so they took me out," he said.
He paused, then cracked a smile.
"Just kidding," he said. "I was going to get three innings or two at-bats. I got both."
He originally injured his back in an Arizona Fall League game last year, then tweaked it in June while playing at Class A Kinston. At the time, he was hitting .346 with nine homers and 45 RBIs.
"It felt good just getting back out and playing again," Kouzmanoff said. "I got some good pitches to hit, I just didn't hit them."
Neither did the rest of the Scrappers.
Mahoning Valley continued its hitting slump, getting just seven hits off three Yankee pitchers. It was the Scrappers' sixth straight loss, dropping them 1 1/2 games behind Auburn in the Pinckney Division standings.
"We're hitting the ball hard, we're just hitting it right at people," said Scrappers manager Rouglas Odor, who missed Thursday's game to serve a one-game suspension for bumping an umpire in Vermont. "We've just got to keep working and stay positive."
Hitting coach Jack Mull filled in for Odor on Thursday. Odor, incidentally, denies bumping the umpire.
"No, I didn't do it," Odor said. "I was upset about it. I don't want to [sit out] any games."
Jose Constanza went 3-for-4 for Mahoning Valley (20-23), while Brent Thomas added two hits. Ryan Edell (1-2) started and got the loss, giving up three runs in five innings. Relief pitcher Nelson Hiraldo gave up a run in the ninth when he threw three wild pitches in the same at-bat after walking a batter.
Kyle Larson had two hits, including a homer, for Staten Island (27-14).
Kouzmanoff got an injection for his bulging disk and does back exercises every day to get back in shape. He'll be with the Scrappers until Sunday and will stay in tonight's game for five innings or three at-bats. Saturday will be an off day and he'll play Sunday.
He's not sure where he'll end up after that -- Lake County is an option -- but he's not worried about it. He's just trying to enjoy being back in the Mahoning Valley.
"It feels like it's been so long," he said of his return. "I've got a lot of good memories here."
He's not the only one.
Before the game, Kerri Moore of Girard threw out a first pitch to her boyfriend, Scott Williams. As she did, the scoreboard behind her flashed, "Cupcake, will you marry me? -- Scott" After the pitch (she threw a one-hopper that Williams fielded cleanly), Williams pointed to the scoreboard, then got down on one knee, showed her the ring and proposed.
She covered her mouth, then leaned over and kissed him.
(She said yes.)
Corona 2b4000Thomas lf5020
Cooper lf5011Constanza cf4030
Poterson rf4010Kzmanoff 3b2000
Larson 1b4121Peterson 3b2000
Nunez ss4000Hiser 1b3010
Pilittere c4110Fornasier dh3000
Gracia dh3220Clem 2b4000
Carroll 3b4101Casillas c3010
Perez cf3001Lytle ss3000
E--Corona, Kouzmanoff. DP--Staten Island 1. LOB--Staten Island 5, Scrappers 10. 2B--Garcia, Thomas, Casillas. HR--Larson.
Seccombe W, 6-1 530013
Erdell L, 1-2563313
WP--Hiraldo 3. HBP-- by Seccombe (Fornasiere): by Hiraldo (Garcia). BK--Hiraldo. Umpires--Home, Brad Myers; First, De'Andre Anderson. T--2:420. A--4,885.