By Dan Hiner
On a day where few things seemed to go right, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers split a doubleheader with the Batavia Muckdogs on Friday at Eastwood Field.
The Scrappers won Game 1, 7-6, but lost the second game, 2-1.
The Scrappers (14-6) had to work for their win in the game that was suspended on Thursday. Some of the team’s top pitchers gave up runs and the offense had difficulties generating scoring opportunities.
Mahoning Valley blew two three-run leads in the remaining five innings, setting up for a dramatic finish.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Tyler Freeman scored the game-winning run after Batavia shortstop Demetrius Sims mishandled a groundball by Mitchell Reeves.
“Honestly I thought we had great at-bats [in Game 1],” Freeman said. “And the [winning] play at the end, I thought something has to go our way in this game, and it did — a little tricky hop at shortstop. We deserved that.”
The first game was a continuation of Thursday’s game which was postponed because of weather in the top of the fifth inning.
The Scrappers led 3-0 when the game restarted, but the Scrappers’ lead quickly vanished.
After Brayan Hernandez scored for the Muckdogs (10-10) on a throwing error by Scrappers catcher Angel Lopez, Sean Reynolds hit a two-run home run to left field to tie the game at 3.
Jose Fermin put the Scrappers in front 5-3 with a two-run double down the left-field line in the seventh. Freeman followed with an RBI single to left field, driving in Fermin.
Randy Valladares and Erick Algarin made appearances in Game 1. Valladares and Algarin entered the game with ERAs under 1.00.
But both Scrappers relievers allowed three runs. Valladares gave up five hits and a walk while striking out two in 21⁄3 innings. Algarin allowed two hits and two walks while only recording one out.
Chris Vallimont got the start for the Muckdogs in Game 1.
Vallimont is an Erie, Pa., native and Mercyhurst graduate. The Marlins’ fifth round pick allowed three runs on three hits and a walk. He struck out one in two innings of work.
The Scrappers, who entered Friday with the top offense in the New York-Penn League, we’re held to four hits in Game 2.
The Muckdogs got on the board first with a sacrifice fly by Igor Baez in the top of the second, driving in Michael Donadio.
After a one-out triple by Albert Guaimaro, Batavia added to its lead on Denis Karas’ RBI single to left field in the third off Scrappers starter Zach Draper.
The Scrappers cut the lead to 2-1 on a RBI single by Freeman in the bottom of the inning, but scoring chances were hard to come by in the second half of the game.
After scoring in the third, the Scrappers were held to two hits and a walk. Mahoning Valley stranded six runners on base, three in scoring position.
The Scrappers had an opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth following a leadoff single and stolen base by Richie Palacios.
But Batavia reliever Tyler Mitzel struck out back-to-back batters and got Simeon Lucas to ground out to end the inning.
Draper allowed two runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out six in five innings.
With the loss, the Scrappers lost their first series of the season, but Scrappers manager Jim Pankovits isn’t concerned.
“I’ve never heard of a team that won every series in season,” Pankovits said. “It was bound to happen.”
For Freeman, the team’s performance in the doubleheader was an example of the ups and downs of baseball.
“Honestly, baseball is baseball ... anything could happen,” Freeman said. “Sometimes our pitchers won’t do as well, our hitters won’t do as well. That’s when we got to pick each other up and I think that’s what we’re best at.”