Full Nelson: Scrappers outfielder delivers walk-off HR
By ED PUSKAS
Hosea Nelson is making a habit of saving his best for last.
The last at-bat, that is.
Nelson crushed a 1-2 pitch for a two-run, walk-off home run to right field to give the Mahoning Valley Scrappers an 8-6 victory over the Hudson Valley Renegades on Sunday at Eastwood Field.
Nelson’s second walk-off hit in eight days snapped a season-long four-game losing streak for the Scrappers (17-11). The left fielder delivered a game-winning single to cap a ninth-inning rally against the Williamsport Crosscutters on July 7.
Scrappers manager Jim Pankovits said Nelson seems to embrace those moments.
“Hosea Nelson has gotten quite a few big hits for us late in games in pressure situations,” Pankovits said. “There’s probably no one better to have been at the plate at that time in the game.”
Pankovits said Nelson hit a fastball from Renegades reliever Jesus Ortiz (2-1) for his second home run of the season. Nelson saw it differently.
“Actually, I was sitting changeup,” he said. “Early in the game, I had two hits and both were on fastballs so, I was looking to adjust on that. ... I think it was a changeup up.”
The manager and player might have seen the pitch differently, but there was no doubting the result. Nelson admitted he wasn’t just trying to make contact with one out and teammate Richie Palacios at first after a lead-off walk.
“[I was thinking] walk-off homer. I was trying to go home,” he said. “It’s funny because last year, every time I had a chance to win a game, I failed. I struck out. I just let the game speed up on me. I didn’t take control of the moment.
“This year, I’m 2 for 2 in those moments and I think the biggest difference is I’ve learned that I’ve got to focus on one thing at a time. ... It wasn’t as slow today, but it was our last ‘Star Wars’ night when I had the last walk-off and it was a packed house, really loud and shaking and I could feel the energy. I was in my own little world. It seemed like it was just me and the pitcher.”
The victory came at just the right time for Mahoning Valley, which was swept in a three-game series at Staten Island last week and then — after returning to Niles early Saturday — fell to Hudson Valley 1-0 that night.
Nelson said the Scrappers’ energy was high at the start of Saturday’s game.
“But we all seemed to hit a wall at some point,” he said.
But the Scrappers proved resilient Sunday. They rallied from a 6-3 deficit through 41⁄2 innings thanks to a fifth-inning sacrifice fly by Jason Rodriguez and sixth-inning RBIs from Tyler Freeman and Palacios.
Two walks and a wild pitch by the Renegades also helped the Scrappers tie the game at 6 in the sixth.
By then, the game was in the hands of Mahoning Valley’s bullpen, which proved up to the task.
Right-hander Jordan Scheftz allowed a run in 22⁄3 innings in relief of starter Cameron Mingo, who allowed eight hits and five runs (four earned) in 32⁄3 innings. Luis Santos (4-1) got the win with 22⁄3 scoreless innings.
“We’ve been looking for someone to close out games,” Pankovits said. “Our bullpen kept us in it and Santos threw real well to keep us tied and to have a chance to win.”
Nelson finished with three hits and three RBIs in his seventh multi-hit game. Rodriguez had two hits and Palacios drove in two runs.
The Scrappers led 3-1 after three innings. Palacios had a sacrifice fly and Nelson and Clark Scolamiero had RBI singles in a three-run third. But the Renegades (18-11) regained the lead and knocked out Mingo with a four-run fourth.