Scrappers’ season ends as ValleyCats sweep
By Steve Ruman
This time, there was no late-inning magic for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
This season, the Scrappers made a habit of come-from-behind wins en route to a Pinckney Division title and a 42-33 regular-season record.
On Thursday, the Scrappers couldn’t recover from Tri-City’s five-run sixth inning. The result was an 8-4 playoffs-ending loss to the ValleyCats in front of 1,098 fans at Eastwood Field.
Tri-City won for the second consecutive night for a sweep in the first round of the New York-Penn League playoffs. The ValleyCats will play Hudson Valley in the league championship series.
“This team battled from day one, they had a great year,” Scrappers manager Jim Pankovits said. “The season didn’t finish the way we wanted but there are a lot of great kids with bright futures on this team. I really look forward to watching their careers develop.”
Tri-City scored the first run in the top of the second inning when Logan Mattix hit a leadoff home run to left field.
The Scrappers tied the game in the bottom half of the inning. Steven Kwan led off with a double, then scored on a Clark Scolamiero single which was followed by a throwing error.
The Scrappers took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on RBI base hits from Scolamiero and Jason Rodriguez.
Scrappers starter Shane McCarthy maintained the Scrappers’ two-run advantage through five innings.
McCarthy surrendered just the one run on three hits while recording four strikeouts.
However, Mahoning Valley turned to its bullpen to start the sixth, and Tri-City jumped all over the relievers.
The ValleyCats sent 10 men to the plate in the five-run sixth. They collected four hits and benefited from four walks. Eli Lingos and Luis Santo each gave up a double, a single and a walk without retiring a batter.
“We just couldn’t hold down their hitting, they got some big hits at key moments,” Pankovits said. “When you give up 17 runs in two games, that’s just tough to overcome.”
The Scrappers cut their deficit to 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth on a Kwan groundout that plated Simeon Lucas. However, Tri-City sealed the deal in the top of the ninth when Emmanuel Valdez belted a towering two-run homer over the left field wall.
“Things didn’t go as planned in the playoffs, but that’s baseball,” Scrappers shortstop Tyler Freeman said. “Hopefully next year all of us guys, wherever we’re at, we all develop and learn from here.”
Freeman was the sparkplug to the Scrappers’ offense all summer long. He batted a league-best .352, and also led the NYPL in runs (49), hits (95) and doubles (29).
“I just took every game as a new day, I went up there thinking I was 0-for-0, thinking that every batter was a new defensive opportunity,” the 19-year-old said. “It was a fun summer.”
This marked the sixth playoff appearance in the 20-year history of Scrappers baseball. In their first four playoff appearances, the Scrappers were 8-0 in first-round games. They have since been swept in first-round games in back-to-back years.
The Scrappers attracted 97,204 fans to Eastwood Field this summer, an average of 2,700 fans per home game. It marks the second lowest attendance total in franchise history.