Anticipation should be no greater when two teams tied with each other for their division lead play on a warm summer night.
But Mahoning Valley took the air out of the Eastwood Field fans early when the Scrappers fell behind early and lost to the Auburn Doubledays, 10-1, in Friday’s New York-Penn League game.
The win put Auburn (29-19) in sole possession of first place in the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League, while Mahoning Valley (28-20) slipped to second.
When the game ended, the Scrappers had racked up a dismal seven errors to accompany an anemic three hits.
“There’s no explanation,” said manager Dave Wallace, who managed a smile despite the hammering, the humidity and the humbling.
“We’ve played good defense all year, so, as long as we’re playing aggressively, I’m happy. I can handle seven errors as long as they’re aggressive.”
Wallace said that the team tried to stay positive in the dugout.
“We tried to play a competitive game, but it didn’t happen for us.”
Third baseman Jordan Smith — who dutifully signed autographs following the game despite stadium darkness while fireworks exploded beyond the outfield — didn’t hide his contribution to the disaster, but, instead, tried to soften the blow.
“I had an error, but you try to move forward and try again tomorrow,” said the player who had one of his team’s three hits.
Tim Wolters had one of the hits, too, but the shortstop also had three errors.
Smith tried to explain that the position isn’t easy.
“You really don’t get the best hops at shortstop. That wasn’t Tony’s usual game. He’s a good fielder.”
Auburn scored three runs in the first inning thanks to the Scrappers’ first two errors and RBI hits from Justin Miller and Carlos Alvarez.
Auburn scored three more run in the second inning, thanks to three Scrappers errors.
The Doubledays scored two more runs in the top of the third for an 8-0 spread.
The bottom of the fifth brought a first for Mahoning Valley — an extra-base hit, a double by Todd Hankins. A fielding error with Jerrud Sabourin at bat finally scored a run for the Scrappers when Hankins took advantage of Auburn’s defense and sped home to end Rodriguez’s shutout.
Mahoning Valley fans let out a cheer in the top of the sixth — this time for Wolters — when the shortstop showed some defense when he cleanly fielded a ground ball by Montilla. In fact, third baseman Smith and second baseman Hankins added to the smooth-fielding inning that made the Eastwood crowd happy.
The Doubledays changed pitchers to start the bottom of the sixth as Kelvin Lopez took over for Rodriguez, who allowed just three hits.
Auburn got its 10th run in the eighth when Burns hit a triple, then scored on a throwing error.
Grant Sides pitched the ninth for Mahoning Valley, replacing Nate Striz, who entered in the seventh.
Auburn put Alex Kreis on the mound in the ninth when he took Lopez’s place.