Scrappers walk with a win in 10th inning

Scrappers walk with a win in 10th inning

By Steve Ruman


A ninth-inning meltdown followed by ninth-inning magic.

Extra-innings disappointment followed by extra-innings celebration.

The start of the 20th season of Mahoning Valley Scrappers baseball had it all. In the end it had the Scrappers rallying twice in late innings to come away with a wild 9-8 win over West Virginia in front of 5,188 euphoric fans at Eastwood Field.

Leading 3-2 entering the ninth inning, the Scrappers surrendered four runs, only to rally with a three-run bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 6.

The Black Bears took an 8-6 lead in the top of the 10th. However, a hit batter and a wild pitch plated a pair of runs, then Scrappers center fielder Gabriel Mejia pushed across the winning run with a one-out sacrifice fly.

Mejia was met at first base with a Gatorade bath, courtesy of his teammates.

“Wow, I don’t think I can ever remember an opener like that,” Scrappers first-year manager Jim Pankovits said. “It was great to see these guys battle back more than once and fight through a lot of adversity.

“We put ourselves in some tough spots, but then to battle back the way they did, that says a lot about this group.”

Both teams wasted no time in scoring their first runs of the season.

Black Bears leadoff hitter Raul Siri led off the game by lacing a double to left field. Siri advanced to third on a Michael de la Cruz sacrifice bunt, then scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Brett Kinneman.

The Scrappers answered in the bottom half of the first inning. Jose Fermin and Tyler Freeman led things off with back-to-back singles. Right fielder Michael Tinsley then plated Fermin with a sacrifice fly to left field.

West Virginia took a 2-1 lead in the third, then the Scrappers took a 3-2 advantage in the seventh in what was a pitchers duel until the craziness ensued in the ninth. The Black Bears scored their four runs on a pair of singles, a pair of doubles, an error and a wild pitch.

The Scrappers scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth on a Fermin RBI groundout and a double off the bat of Freeman that plated a pair of runs.

After West Virginia took an 8-6 lead in the top of the 10th, the Scrappers sent the fans home happy with their three-run, game-winning rally.

The extra innings introduced both teams with the new minor-league rule which places a runner at second base to start each inning.

“We tried to get some input from all the full-season teams who have experiences with extra innings this year on how to play this,” Pankovits said. “There’s no definitive answer. But when we got behind, there’s no bunting, we just have to try and get runners on and score.

“This was just a crazy game and a great win. This is the type of team I think you’re going to see all year, one that battles every night, every pitch.”

The Scrappers and Black Bears continue their three-game series at 7:05 tonight.

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