By Tom Williams
The hottest team in the New York-Penn League rallied to cool off the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in Tuesday’s showdown of first-place teams at Eastwood Field.
The Staten Island Yankees scored three times in the eighth inning for a 7-4 victory that snapped the Scrappers’ four-game winning streak.
The Yankees (33-11), the best team in the league, are running away with the McNamara Division. The win was their 28th in 30 games.
“We came into it knowing they are a tough team, just look at their record,” said Scrappers center fielder Cody Elliott, whose two-run single in the third inning gave the Scrappers their only lead.
The Scrappers (26-19) are in a tight four-team race in the Pinckney Division. Auburn’s 13-3 win over Connecticut has them tied with the Scrappers. Jamestown and Williamsport won to move to within a game of first place.
Three times the Scrappers were able to wipe out Staten Island leads. But the Yankees’ final surge was too much.
“They definitely made it happen,” Scrappers manager Dave Wallace said. “You can’t give them extra opportunities and we did tonight.”
In Scrappers reliever Nate Striz’s third inning, the Yankees’ Mason Williams singled, stole second base and moved to third base on Cito Culver’s opposite-field hit to left.
Ben Gamel’s sacrifice fly sent Williams home to break the 4-4 tie. The Scrappers’ woes escalated when first baseman Jake Lowery mishandled Striz’s pickoff attempt, allowing Culver to reach third base.
With two outs, Grant Sides replaced Striz. Angelo Gumbs greeted him with a RBI triple to deep center field. Gumbs raced home on a wild pitch to give the Yankees a three-run lead.
Wallace said Williams’ steal was the key.
“I thought Alex made a great throw ... [but] we’ve got to make that play,” Wallace said. “That to me changed the whole inning.”
Early on, a close game after seven innings seemed unlikely as six pitches in, the Scrappers were in trouble. First, Williams clubbed Scrappers starter Mason Radeke’s 1-1 offering over the right-center field fence for a 1-0 lead.
Then Culver hit Radeke’s 1-1 pitch into the right-field corner for a triple. He scored on a wild-pitch.
Jordan Smith’s RBI single scored Tony Wolters to slice the Yankees’ lead to 2-1 in the first inning. Smith, the league’s leading hitter, went 1-for 4.
The Scrappers took the lead after loading the bases with no outs in the third inning. Elliott sent the ball just past diving second baseman Angelo Gumbs to score Wolters and Jake Lowery for a 3-2 lead.
Williams’ off-target throw from center field to third base gave Smith a chance to score. But third baseman Casey Stevenson recovered the ball quickly enough to allow Liccien to tag out Smith at the plate.
Raymond Nunez’s RBI double in the fourth inning tied the game. An inning later, both teams scored once.