Five in the sixth propels Scrappers
By STEVE RUMAN
In recent years, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers have struggled to rally while playing at Eastwood Field.
A deficit, whether early or late, generally resulted in a loss.
If the first two games of the 2018 season are any indication, these Scrappers may earn the title of Comeback Kids.
Saturday, the Scrappers trailed twice, but a five-run sixth inning propelled the home team to a 9-3 win over the West Virginia Black Bears in front of 2,770 fans.
The night before, the Scrappers trailed on four different occasions, only to tie the game or take the lead in a 9-8 win.
“Better late than never,” Scrappers manager Jim Pankovits said about the Scrappers’ comeback style. “We’ve talked about getting going early, getting some good at-bats to try to set the tone, but the opposition is trying to win to, so it’s not that simple.
“It’s a good sign that this group never quits, never gives up.”
The Black Bears wasted no time in taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Michael De La Cruz reached on a one-out walk, advanced to third on an Edison Lantigua single, then scored on a Lucas Mangieri groundout.
However, from that point on Scrappers starter Luis Oviedo shut down the Black Bears offense in his four innings of work. Oviedo struck out eight of the 16 batters he faced and gave up just two hits while walking a pair of batters.
The Scrappers tied the game at 1-1 in the third when Gabriel Mejia reached on a lead-off bunt single, then eventually came around to score on a Tyler Freeman groundout.
In the sixth, West Virginia sent seven men to the plate, and although the ball left the infield just once, the Black Bears plated a pair of runs.
Again, the Scrappers answered. This time, it was a Mitch Reeves two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 3-3.
The Scrappers tacked on three more runs in the inning. A triple off the bat of Elvis Perez, and singles from Jason Rodriguez and Jose Fermin each resulted in runs, giving the Scrappers an 6-3 lead.
The Scrappers added a pair of runs in the seventh, and finished the scoring with a run in eighth.
“The [Reeves] homer was big, it kind of gave us a huge spark and it seemed like after that everyone felt we could put some more runs on the board,” Pankovits said.
Reeves spent most of last summer in Arizona then joined the Scrappers in late August.
“Just those few days here kind of showed me what to expect, and helped me get to know the lay of the land,” Reeves said.