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Scrappers fall to State College, 8-5

NILES — For a time in mid-June, it appeared as though the battle for the playoffs would go through Eastwood Field. The Mahoning Valley Scrappers were the hottest team in the MLB Draft League and if nothing else it seemed as though they would battle for the first-half title.

As it turns out, August games at Eastwood Field will certainly help dictate the season’s second-half champion. State College — just one game out of first place — is in the midst of a stretch which sends them to Niles for nine games in a span of 20 days.

The Spikes appeared to feel right at home Thursday, defeating the host Scrappers for a third straight night. This time, it was a State College 8-5 victory in front of 2,861 fans.

Thursday’s game was a showcase of futility. Scrappers pitchers issued 10 walks. Seven of the Spikes’ runs were scored after there were two outs in an inning and no runners on base. State College pitchers hit seven MV batters — including five by SC starter John Kengott. However, the Scrappers (22-42, 7-18) left 14 men on base.

Ron Washington, Alex Crump and Oscar Ponce each had a pair of hits for the Scrappers. Washington hit a ninth-inning home run, his second of the season.

WHEN THERE’S A WILL

Scrappers infielder Will Prater began his college career at Western Carolina as a walk-on. He ended his career on scholarship and in the record books as one of the school’s all-time best.

This past spring Prater concluded his five-year run at Western Carolina with a .325 career batting average. During the five-year stretch, he played in 225 games with 208 starts. He recorded 274 base hits including 38 doubles, 12 triples and three home runs. He scored 157 runs with 116 RBIs.

“It really was a dream come true. I almost went to a junior college, but I took a chance because it was always my dream to play (Division I) and to play against big schools like Tennessee, Kentucky and Clemson,” Prater said. “I ended up achieving everything I could have dreamed of and more. I had an absolute blast.”

Prater’s crowning achievement occurred in the spring of 2021 during his junior year when he ended the season with a .402 batting average.

Prater entered the late innings of the final game of the season batting .401. In the seventh inning, he was hit by a pitch, keeping his average intact.

“I figured that was my final at-bat, but we were in some crazy 18-1 game and we kept scoring, and I had another final at-bat,” Prater recalled.

A recorded out would drop Prater’s average to .399, while a base hit would put him at .404. Prater delivered with a single on the first pitch of his final at-bat of the season.

“I went up there telling myself that I wasn’t going to swing at anything until there were two strikes,” Prater said. “First pitch, couldn’t resist and I swung away and was lucky to get a hit. Coolest thing about it was that I was able to give that ball to my dad.”

Prater was a mid-July late addition to the Scrappers roster.

“I was playing summer ball and I got off the field and my phone was blowing up, saying I had the opportunity to come up here and finish out the summer,” said the Dallas, Georgia, native. “I got the call on a Sunday and I was here Monday morning.”

“I’ve had a pretty good year. I’m all about Georgia, I love the Braves, the Georgia Bulldogs, the Hawks and the Falcons. And I love this opportunity with the MLB Draft League.”

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