Scrappers keep Mota-ring with another victory


Extra-base hits spur late surge

By DAN HINER

dhiner@vindy.com

NILES

Mahoning Valley Scrappers starter Juan Mota has been steadily improving. Mota strung together 62/3 of quality pitching to help the Scrappers to a 7-2 win over the Williamsport Crosscutters on Tuesday at Eastwood Field.

Mota allowed two runs on two hits and struck out six. He also didn’t allow a walk, which comes as no surprise.

The right-hander has allowed just nine walks in 412/3 innings this season.

“He’s actually been good at that all season,” Scrappers pitching coach Jason Blanton said. “When we were in extended Arizona, he’d have stretches where he’d go three starts with no walks.

“He’s been controlling his stuff. We’re still trying to dial in command of his stuff. But for him, compared to last season, his control has improved tremendously. He’s really, really worked hard at it.”

The Scrappers (27-15) took the lead in the seventh on an RBI triple by Ronny Dominguez, his first triple of the season.

Dominguez entered the game hitting .174 with one extra-base hit and one RBI since getting a call-up from the Arizona League on July 3.

Dominguez’s triple ignited the Scrappers’ offense, which had just four hits in the first six innings.

The Scrappers scored four runs in the eighth to put the game out of reach, including a two-run double by Henry Pujols.

Pujols finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs. He has gone 6 for 11 with a home run and three RBIs the last three days after going hitless in seven straight games.

After Tuesday’s game, the Scrappers have outscored opponents 82-52 in the seventh inning or later. Scrappers infielder Tyler Freeman said the team has a tendency to start slow.

“Once we hit the seventh inning, we just decide to turn it on,” Freeman said. “First half of the game, we’ll score runs here and there but watch out for us in the seventh inning on.”

Williamsport (17-26) took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Edwin Rodriguez hit an RBI single to left field.

Freeman tied the game in the bottom of the first, scoring on a wild pitch and a throwing error by catcher Jesse Wilkening. Wilkening tried to throw out Freeman at third but threw the ball into left field.

Freeman hit his second home run of the season over the left field wall at Eastwood Field to give the Scrappers the lead in the bottom of the third inning.

It was the 19-year-old shortstop’s second homer in the last three games, but he said there was a little luck involved.

“The wind blowing out tonight a little bit helped me,” Freeman said. “I’ve been squaring up a lot of balls throughout the whole season — some of them haven’t gone out, whatever.

“From here on out, I hope that [carries over], but it’s still a line-drive approach. If it gets out, it gets out. I’m not really too big on the home runs.”

Madison Stokes tied the game at 2 with a leadoff homer over the left-center field wall in the sixth for his first of the season.

Scrappers reliever Luis Santos earned his fifth win of the season by pitching 11/3 innings of scoreless ball. Manuel Alvarez hit a batter in the ninth but got three quick outs to end the game.

Blanton said the bullpen’s success this season is due to their aggressiveness. He said the relievers are talented and enter the game with a ‘come in and throw strikes” mentality.

“We keep doing that, our stuff will certainly have success,” Blanton said.

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