By Steve Ruman
Never mind that the Mahoning Valley Scrappers were playing some of their best baseball of the season.
Never mind that they had just completed a 4-1 road trip which ended with a three-game sweep of Batavia.
On Monday, the odds were totally against the Scrappers when they hosted State College at Eastwood Field.
The Scrappers entered the game with the worst home record in the New York-Penn League. The Spikes, meanwhile, possessed the league’s best road record.
Scrappers’ starting pitcher Juan Santana entered the game with a team-high seven losses. In two previous games this year against the Spikes, Santana was 0-2 with a 12.50 ERA.
All the trends continued as the Spikes downed the Scrappers 4-3 in front of 1,983 fans on what was Hunger Games Night at Eastwood Field.
Mahoning Valley fans have been hungry to see winning baseball from the Scrappers for quite some time. The Scrappers (30-38) are 12-20 in games played at Eastwood Field. On the road, they are 18-18.
With Monday’s loss, the Scrappers are guaranteed of their third consecutive losing season. The setback also officially eliminates the Scrappers from playoff contention.
The Spikes (42-27) have already clinched the Pinkney Division title. They own a 10-game lead over second-place Jamestown.
“It comes down to the fact that my hitting and pitching coaches have done a great job of preparing our guys to play at this level,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “We have a nice group of players, and they’ve adjusted well to the minor leagues.
“Sometimes it’s not an easy adjustment, but they’ve handled themselves well in all aspects.”
The Spikes scored four runs off Santana (1-8) in his five innings of work. Luis Cruz went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI. Darren Seferina and Nick Thompson knocked in a run apiece for the visitors.
The Scrappers scored a run in the fourth when Francisco Mejia belted a home run off the scoreboard in right-center field.
In the fifth, Scrappers center fielder Bradley Zimmer cut the deficit to 4-3 with a triple that scored a pair of runs.
Marmol had a simple explanation for his team’s 22-13 road record.
“We tell our guys all the time that the travel at this level is less extensive than any other level above us,” Marmol said. “If they can’t handle the travel here, they don’t belong in baseball.”
During the Scrappers’ recent road trip, the Cleveland Indians promoted catcher Shane Rowland to the Lake County Captains.
They also promoted Casey Shane, a sixth-round selection of the 2013 draft, from the Arizona League to the Scrappers. Shane started against Batavia on Saturday and picked up the win, going five innings while allowing no earned runs.
Shane posted a 5-0 record with a 2.72 ERA during the summer.
The Scrappers close out the season next Monday at Jamestown, N.Y. It will be their last game ever against the Jammers.
The New York-Penn League and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday announced that the Jamestown franchise will be relocating to Morgantown, W.Va., for the 2015 season. The team will share a new ballpark with the West Virginia University baseball team.
The move has been rumored since 2012 when plans for the college stadium were unveiled. The Pirates had repeatedly expressed interest in having an affiliate in Morgantown.
The NYPL has five other clubs sharing facilities with colleges and universities.