They wound up with a 37-37 record and in second place in their division.
By STEVE RUMAN
NILES — Looking back, it seems rather fitting that the Mahoning Valley Scrappers 2007 season began with a rainout, followed by a doubleheader split.
It was that kind of summer for the Scrappers, whose roller coaster season included its share of ups and downs. When all was said and done, the Scrappers appropriately finished with a .500 record at 37-37.
The Scrappers campaign ended Friday with a 4-3 loss at State College — their fifth consecutive loss. They finished in second place in the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League, nine games behind Auburn.
“There were a lot of promising individual performances from various players, but unfortunately the team was never able to put it all together, especially down the stretch,” said Scrappers radio play-by-play announcer Mike Pilch. “For the most part, the pitching staff was pretty consistent all summer long. The offense went through a lot of ups and downs.”
“Following the all-star break, it seemed like we were always getting base hits, but we were always leaving a ton of guys on base,” Pilch added.
Faltered down the stretch
The Scrappers were 28-23 entering the all-star break, but finished 9-14 from that point on.
After starting out 17-20, it appeared the Scrappers were going to make another late-season run reminiscent to the one the team made in 2004 when it won 21 of its last 27 regular season games en route to a league title.
The Scrappers put together an eight-game winning streak, and won 13 of 17 to pull to within two games of Auburn. However, the Scrappers then lost a pair of heartbreaking games in the span of three days which Pilch described as “the obvious turning point of the season.”
On Aug. 20, Scrappers led at Batavia 2-0 going into the bottom of eighth. After the first two Batavia batters recorded outs, a third batter struck out but advanced to first on a wild pitch. Three runs eventually scored and the Scrappers lost 3-2.
Two days later, the Scrappers led Auburn 6-2 entering the ninth inning, but lost the game 8-7 in extra innings.
“Instead of being one game behind Auburn, we were three out,” Pilch said. “We were nearly perfect in terms of holding late-inning leads to that point. The losses were quite demoralizing.”
Despite their struggles as a team, there were several individual standouts. First baseman Todd Martin set Scrappers franchise records for highest batting average (.360), slugging percentage (.533) and on-base percentage (.423). Martin also became the second Scrappers player to win a league batting crown.
Martin sat out the final two weeks of the season with a sprained knee.
Relief pitcher Kyle Landis (1-0, 0.33 ERA) set a franchise record for lowest earned run average with at least 10 appearances, while outfielder Adam White tied a club mark with 22 stolen bases.
“It will be fun to follow the careers of those guys in the future,” Pilch said. “Martin was just a hitting machine. He handled himself remarkably in the batters box. Landis was lights out every time he had the ball in his hands, and White really hit the ball well at the end of the season.”
Pilch said he believes there are others who are likely to advance to the higher levels of professional baseball.
“The first guy who comes to mind is [Kelvin] De La Cruz,” Pilch said. “He’s definitely a guy fans will want to keep their eye on over the next few years.”
In 12 starts, De La Cruz was 2-4 with a 3.98 ERA.
Lowest seasonal attendance
From a marketing standpoint, the Scrappers also experienced their share of highs and lows. On July 22, the Scrappers played in front to 7,008 fans, the third-largest crowd in Eastwood Field history. However, the home season attendance of 129,717 fans represented the lowest seasonal total in the nine-year history of the franchise.
The Scrappers, who averaged 3,704 fans per home game, were hampered by three rainouts and a summer-long heat wave.
“Overall, we were extremely pleased with the response from the community,” said Scrappers general manager Dave Smith. “This area continues to support professional baseball in the Valley. They’re still excited about what we have to offer, and they appreciate the fact we are always striving to offer new and exciting promotions.
Eyeing 2008 season
“We’re already looking forward to next year. We’re already in the planning stages in terms of what we’ll have to offer in the ’08 season,” Smith said.
Smith noted that many of next year’s promotions and giveaways will be geared toward what will be the Scrappers’ 10th anniversary.
“We’ll have a special commemorative logo designed, and it will be used quite a bit,” Smith said.
The Scrappers will also mark an attendance milestone in 2008, when they welcome their 1.5 millionth fan. They will enter the season just 32,799 shy of the mark.
Smith, who is part of the league’s scheduling committee, said he expects the ’08 schedules to be released within the next few weeks.