Scrappers split season-opening series with WV

MV's pitching coach Ray King gives thoughts on pitch clock

NILES — For a third time in four days, West Virginia pitchers had a difficult time finding the plate at Eastwood Field.

And for a third time in four days, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers took advantage of the wildness of the Black Bears.

Unfortunately on Sunday, the Scrappers committed some blunders of their own, resulting in a ninth inning meltdown.

When all was said and done, the Black Bears defeated the Scrappers 7-6, and the two teams split a four-game series.

MV built a five run lead thanks to a pair of three-run innings. The Scrappers scored three in the second inning courtesy of a pair of walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch. In the fifth, three walks and a pair of wild pitches gave the Scrappers a 6-1 advantage.

However, West Virginia scored a pair of runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings to secure the win.

The Scrappers committed three errors in the ninth inning.

West Virginia pitchers issued seven walks, hit three batters and threw four wild pitches.

Scrappers first baseman Mason Sykes reached base four times, scored a run and had an RBI. Sykes was hit by pitches on two occasions. He also had a pair of doubles.

The Scrappers begin their first road trip of the season Tuesday when they start a three-game series at Frederick.


In a perfect baseball world, there would be no need for a pitch clock, according to Mahoning Valley Scrappers pitching coach Ray King.

After all, long before there was a time limit between pitches, King recalls watching Atlanta Braves teammate Greg Maddux throw just 81 pitches to hurl a complete game which lasted just one hour and 52 minutes.

“I’m old-school, I always liked to work fast and I think most of the pitchers back in the day were the same way,” King said. “But it got to a point where both pitchers and hitters were really slowing down the game.

“There’s no reason to be playing a four-hour game so hopefully the pitch timer and some of the other implemented rules will bring us back to where we were a few years ago.”

King said his only concern is the risk of injuries resulting from players rushing to beat the clock.

“I told our pitchers that I’d rather them step off and take a ball than to not be ready, rush and throw a pitch and hurt yourself,” King said. “Don’t just fire away to beat the clock, it’s not worth the risk.

“But overall, I think with the pitch timer, the elimination of the shift, and the cutting down on throwing to first, it’s all going to revert back to ten or so years ago where players figured out that if you put the ball in play good things will happen.”

In the first three games of the Scrappers-Black Bears series, there were three pitch timer violations — all committed by West Virginia pitchers in the season-opener. They were the only three violations league-wide through Saturday.

“I think for the most part pitchers work at a pretty rapid pace at the high school and college levels, so for us, it’s just a matter of maintaining those habits,” King said. “The guys in the Big Leagues who sort of fell into that slower routine, they’re the ones who will have to adjust.”

King was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1995. He went on to have a 10-year MLB career, playing for six different teams. His resume includes a lifetime ERA of 3.46, working 411 innings.

King says that his goal with the Scrappers is to teach players “how to be a professional.” He noted that off-field habits — everything from rest to studying the game to working out and maintaining a proper diet — are just as important as what takes place on the field. At the same time, he wants players to understand that the game shouldn’t be too complicated.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for analytics, but there are so many numbers out there it can be overwhelming,” King said. “I think we might be seeing a shift back to basics, back to small ball. Get them on, get them over, get them in.

“Baseball can be a simple game. Just go out there and do your thing, and learn from each day, each game. I’m not here to be a disciplinarian. I’m here to guide and to provide some insight and knowledge to help these guys progress to the next level.”

King noted that he attended an NAIA school before being drafted by the Reds.

“I can serve as an example that you don’t have to play at a big school in order to get recognized, you just have to have the drive and put in the hard work,” King said.


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