By Steve ruman
For the better part of the summer, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers as a team owned the top batting average in the New York-Penn League.
However, as the temperatures have cooled, so too has the Scrappers’ offense.
As a result, the Scrappers suddenly find themselves clinging to what was recently a comfortable lead in the Pinckney Division.
The Scrappers on Thursday were defeated by second-place State College 4-3 in front of 2,114 fans at Eastwood Field. With the loss, the Scrappers’ division lead over the Spikes has been dwindled to 11/2 games.
Just three days ago, MV held a 41/2-game lead over State College. However, MV has scored just four runs in its last 32 innings of play.
On Thursday, the Scrappers (39-29) scored early to take a 3-0 lead. However, they spent the rest of the night struggling to put together consecutive hits, stranding 11 men on base in the process.
“We’ll be OK, we are still on top and that’s what we are going to take from this game,” said Scrappers center fielder Clark Scolamiero. “We still feel as though we are the best team in this division by far.
“We’re going to play this next week out. We’re going to continue to play hard and I think we’ll be just fine.”
The Scrappers and Spikes (38-31) both have seven regular season games remaining, including games against one another tonight and Saturday.
Scolamiero was involved in a pivotal play in the fifth inning which turned the tide of Thursday’s game. With the Scrappers leading 3-0, Spikes right fielder Branson Benson hit a sinking line drive to Scolamiero, who appeared to catch the ball and double up Matt Benson, who had reached on a single.
Field umpire Matt Baldwin ruled the play an inning-ending double play, and both teams headed to their respective dugouts. However, plate umpire John Boccio overruled the call, saying Scolamiero trapped the ball.
The Spikes took full advantage of their second life, scoring three times in the inning. Yariel Gonzalez provided the inning’s big blow with a two RBI double.
Afterward, Scolamiero admitted that the umpires made the right call.
“I kind of got lost in my read, I took a bad read and I tried to adjust to the ball and it tipped my glove,” Scolamiero said. “They thought I caught it at first, but it was a trap and they got it right.”
The Spikes scored what proved to be the game-winning run in the ninth. Benson led off the frame with a single, and on the play he moved to second on an Ernie Clement fielding error. Benson advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on Gonzalez two-out, broken bat bloop single to center.
The Scrappers scored their three runs on RBIs from Will Benson, Simeon Lucas and Jesse Berardi.
Spikes reliever Levi MaVorhis (1-1) worked three innings of shutout ball to earn his first win of the year. Jason Zgardowski struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to pick up the save.
Despite a three-game skid, Scrappers manager Luke Carlin said his team remains upbeat as it heads into the final week of the regular season.
“We’ve been battling back all year, and we’re still in a good spot,” Carlin said. “Everyone is still gunning for us, wanting to be where we’re at.
“It’s just a matter of keeping the guys focused and keeping them loose. It’s still baseball. We just have to keep things in perspective.”
The Scrappers and Spikes continue their series tonight at 7:05.