Scrappers’ slide reaches 7 games


By Steve ruman

sports@vindy.com

NILES

Saturday was tabbed Turn Back The Clock Night at Eastwood Field.

In recognition of their 20th season of baseball in Niles, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ front office had various 1999-themed events planned throughout the night as the Scrappers hosted the State College Spikes.

On the field, the Scrappers are searching for a way to turn the clock back just 19 days. On Aug. 1, the Scrappers owned the best record in the New York-Penn League. They were 13 games above .500 and held a five-game lead in the Pinkney Division,

Following Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Spikes, the Scrappers (32-27) now find themselves desperately searching for a way to get back to their early season form.

The latest setback, in front of 3,012 fans, was the Scrappers’ seventh straight loss. They have lost 12 of their last 16 games after starting off the season 28-15.

The Scrappers trail Auburn by 2.5 games in the Pinckney Division. In the race for the lone wildcard spot, they trail Brooklyn by one game.

The Scrappers’ offense, which was leading the NYPL through the end of July, is hitting just .255. The Scrappers’ pitching staff entered the night with the league’s second-worst earned run average (3.83).

“It’s tough, it’s been a tough stretch but failure is part of the process,” said Scrappers shortstop Tyler Freeman. “You have to fail to succeed. We’re in a funk right now, but we’ll get through it.”

As he has done all year long, Freeman (.381 batting average) once again provided the Scrappers with their offensive highlights.

Freeman doubled in each of his first three at-bats, giving him a franchise record 26 doubles on the season. He broke the mark of 25 established in 2003 by Ryan Mulhern.

Earlier this year, Freeman tied a franchise record with a 21-game hitting streak. He is on pace to break Scrappers’ single-season records for batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

“It’s not going to last all season, I know that,” Freeman said of his record-breaking success. “Right now it’s been a lot of fun. I go up there, I try to handle the balls in the strike zone and I just try to put the ball in play. In this game, most of the time even when you do that it results in an out. But things have gone my way.

“I’ve never had this type of an extended streak, so I’m enjoying the ride.”

State College (27-31) scored all the runs it would need in the third inning. After Scrappers starter Yefferson Yannuzzi retired the first two batters in quick fashion, he gave up a single off the bat of Lars Nootbar, then served up a home run to Brady Whalen.

Two innings later, Whalen would give the Spikes a 4-0 advantage when he greeted Scrappers reliever Randy Valladares with a two-out, two-run double.

The Scrappers’ lone run came in the sixth when Freeman led off with a double, then scored on a Mitch Reeves groundout.

“When we were on the hot streak, we were all having fun, all swinging the bats well from top to bottom,” Freeman said. “We lost a little bit of that, but we’ll get it back. All it takes is one game for another hot streak to happen.”

The Scrappers will try to end their losing streak at 4:05 p.m. today when they host State College in the final game of the series.

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