By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- This week, in Pamplona, Spain, the annual running of the bulls festival occurs.
A local version of the explosion of the mighty beasts came in the ninth inning of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers 4-3 win Friday over the Auburn Doubledays at Eastwood Field.
Clutching the most narrow of leads, the Scrappers summoned closer Neil Wagner to pitch the top of the ninth inning. Wagner sprinted from the bullpen to the pitching mound, running like one of the massive steers was in hot pursuit.
His antics helped to pave the way to a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts as the Scrappers (10-8) won for the sixth time in eight games.
The win streak, coupled with the Batavia Muckdogs' loss, put the Scrappers in first place in the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League.
"It's nice to be out here, getting some wins and getting some saves," Wagner said.
He now has four saves, third best in the NYPL.
"I'm not the originator, I stole that from John Rocker," Wagner said of his mad dash that helps to intimidate the opposition.
"I've done it since high school and enjoy doing it."
Using strictly fastballs, Wagner struck out the first two Auburn hitters before yielding a fly out to end it.
"It's hitting spots and consistent mechanics," Wagner explained of his success. "Throwing the ball where I want to; you usually get good results when you do that."
Mahoning Valley manager Rouglas Odor has also watched Wagner run to his position and feels the technique is effective.
"He has been doing it the whole season so far," Odor said.
"I'll tell you what, he looks like a bull coming from the bullpen. That's what you need. As a closer, you gotta have something that can pump you up."
Or, in this case, deflate the opposing hitters.
"He throws hard," Odor said of Wagner who won the closer role after the season began. "He's commanding his fastball very well."
Odor estimated that Wagner's fastball arrives about 95-96 miles per hour, an intimidating speed.
"He's going to be a great pitcher in the big leagues one day," Odor said.
The Scrappers took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Dustin Realini ripped his first triple of the season and came home on a ground out.
After the Doubledays (8-9) went ahead 2-1 in the top of the fifth, Mahoning Valley responded with a three-run inning, collecting five of its seven hits in the frame.
In a display of disciplined hitting, the Scrappers had four straight two-out singles to drive in three base runners, all from second base.
"Those are huge hits," Odor said. "Two-out hits are huge. Any time you can do that it's a good sign of having a great ball club."
The Scrappers left just four men on base, collecting big hits when they needed them.
"It was nice to see the players swinging the bats the way they did in that particular inning," Odor said.
Campbell 2b4011Douglas cf4111
Zeskind lf4011Lytle ss4110
Calderone cf4000Goedert 3b4021
Liuzza c4000Edmundson c4011
Hopkins 1b3000Realini 2b4110
Scobee rf4000Roberts 1b3001
Lane dh4000Cmbrbtch rf3110
Swppnhsr 3b1200Lacy dh1000
Baksh ph1000De Leon lf3000
E--Roberts (2), Lytle (4). LOB--Auburn 6, Scrappers 4. 3B--Realini (1). SB--Lacy (2). S--Lacy.
Benson L, 1-1574402
Valdez W, 3-02 2-301011
Wagner S, 4100002
WP--Benson. HBP--Lacy (by Benson), Sweppenhiser (by Eisenberg), Sweppenhiser (by Valdez), Diaz (by Valdez). Umpires--Home, Hamari; First, Arcovio. T--2:11. A--5,243.
HOW THEY SCORED
Scrappers 2nd -- Edmundson popped out (F-4). Realini tripled to right field. Roberts grounded out (4-3), Realini scored. Cumberbatch grounded out (3-U). 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors.
Auburn 5th -- Lane grounded out (4-3). Sweppenhiser hit by pitch. Diaz singled to left field, Sweppenhiser to 2nd. Campbell singled to right field, Sweppenhiser scored, Diaz to 3rd. Pitching change: Valdez replaced Eisenberg. Zeskind grounded into a force out (3-6), Diaz scored, Campbell out at 2nd, Zeskind to 1st. Calderone grounded out (4-3). 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors.
Scrappers 5th -- Cumberbatch singled to right field. Lacy sacrificed (1-3), Cumberbatch to 2nd. De Leon struck out. Douglas singled to center field, Cumberbatch scored. Lytle singled to shortstop, Douglas to 2nd. Goedert singled to center field, Douglas scored, Lytle to 2nd. Edmundson singled to left field, Lytle scored, Goedert to 2nd. Realini struck out. 3 runs, 5 hits, 0 errors.
Auburn 7th -- Sweppenhiser hit by pitch. Diaz hit by pitch, Sweppenhiser to 2nd. Campbell grounded into a force out (4-6), Sweppenhiser scored, Diaz out at 2nd, Campbell advanced to 2nd on error (E-6). Zeskind grounded out (1-3), Campbell to 3rd. Calderone struck out. 1 run, 0 hits, 1 error.