By Steve Ruman
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers picked the wrong time to suffer back-to-back losses for just the second time in a month.
The Scrappers, who entered the New York-Penn League playoffs as the hottest team, saw their season come to an end on Monday courtesy of a 3-0 loss to Vermont at Eastwood Field.
After the Lake Monsters (44-33) defeated MV 8-3 at home on Saturday, they swept the best-of-three series.
Vermont will now wait on the winner of tonight’s Hudson Valley-Staten Island game to see who it will play in the NYPL championship series.
“Vermont played very well, they threw some good arms at us and we just couldn’t get going,” Scrappers manager Luke Carlin said. “They played good baseball.”
Vermont wasted little time taking much of the drama out of the Scrappers’ first home playoff game in eight years.
The Lake Monsters scored three runs in the third inning when the first three batters reached base on a single, double and walk.
Logan Farrar’s double produced the first run of the game. Vermont then scored the game’s final two runs on sacrifice flies off the bats of Greg Diechmann and Jordan Devencenzi.
Meanwhile, the Scrappers offense was completely stymied by Vermont starter Jesus Luzardo and a trio of relievers.
Luzardo retired the first nine batters he faced before issuing a single to Ernie Clement and a walk to Nolan Jones to open the bottom of the fourth. However, a double play squelched the Scrappers’ best scoring opportunity.
Clement’s single was the Scrappers’ lone hit of the night.
Luzardo worked five scoreless innings while recording five strikeouts to pick up the win.
Michael Danielak retired the only four hitters he faced to pick up the save. Danielak struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
“Throughout this entire summer, [Luzardo] was probably one of the top three or four guys we faced as a starting pitcher,” Scrappers center fielder Austen Wade said. “He had a solid game. He had a game plan and he executed it well.”
“Vermont is a very good team. They played very well in this series.”
The Scrappers finished with their best record (44-31) since ‘09.
Wade, who was picked up by the Cleveland Indians out of TCU in the fifth round of the June draft, said he will walk away with nothing but fond memories of his summer at Eastwood Field.
“Since I showed up in early July, I got to know a lot of these guys,” Wade said. “This was a fun ride. I’ve never experienced anything like this, where I was on a team with guys three years younger than me, or guys from Latin America, getting to learn their heritage.”
“We really bonded as a group, as a team, and I think that helped lead to our success.”
Carlin, who concluded his first season as a professional manager, said that the ‘17 Scrappers “were a special group of players and young men.
“I’m very proud of these guys,” Carlin said. “I have not seen a team with so much energy and passion, and the ability to fight.”
“It’s been a learning experience for all of us. But the way we played all year is a reason to keep our heads up.”
Despite a season-low crowd Monday of 1,040, the Scrappers improved at the box office this summer. They averaged 2,997 fans per home contest, up from an average of 2,632 a year ago.
The Scrappers were making their fifth playoff appearance in franchise history. Prior to being swept by Vermont, the Scrappers were 8-0 in first-round playoff games.