West Virginia Black Bears rebound, romp Mahoning Valley Scrappers 16-4
NILES — One night after West Virginia gift-wrapped a victory to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the Black Bears wasted no time righting their wrongs.
The Black Bears on Friday scored three runs in the first inning, then sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run third inning. The eventual result was a 16-4 win over the Scrappers in front of 2,783 fans at Eastwood Field.
West Virginia first baseman Ross Mulhall belted a two-run home run in the first inning, then added an RBI single in the third to lead the early offensive barrage. Scrappers starter Ahmad Harajli failed to make it out of the third inning, surrendering nine runs (five earned).
Mulhall, along with WV leadoff hitter Devin Saltiban, each had four RBI. Every hitter in the Black Bears lineup had at least one hit, and six players logged a multiple RBI night.
West Virginia starter Cobe Reeves worked five innings to pick up the win. He surrendered just one run on two hits while recording four strikeouts.
The Scrappers scored their first run in the second on a Harrison Rodgers RBI double. The home team put up three runs in the sixth, with two of the runs scoring on a Mason Sykes base hit.
The Scrappers mustered just five base hits.
The Scrappers and Black Bears continue their three-game series tonight at 7:05.
NO REST FOR THE WICKED
To suggest that Connor Capece experienced a whirlwind of activity during his final month as a high school student would be an understatement.
On May 15, Capece played his final high school baseball game. A week later, he graduated from Gross Catholic High School in Omaha, NE. He had just five days to celebrate with family and friends, then he jumped in a car and drove for two days before arriving in Niles this past Monday.
On Thursday, the 17-year-old found himself running out onto Eastwood Field while being introduced in front of 4,812 Opening Day fans.
“Pretty surreal, everything happened so fast I guess I didn’t have time to get nervous or to let it all sink in,” Capece said. “It’s all a bit overwhelming, but I love being around people, I love new experiences and new places so it’s all really good.”
Capece, who will turn 18 years old on June 19, is the youngest player on the current Scrappers’ roster. He is set to attend Creighton University this coming fall, where he will play baseball.
While he is listed as a catcher on the Scrappers’ roster, Capece is equally talented on the pitching mound. During his high school career, Capece owned a career batting average of .471, including a .521 average this past spring. As a pitcher, his career ERA stands at 1.28. In 60 innings of work, he logged 106 strikeouts.
In one of his final games this spring, Capece led his team to a 7-6 win over Omaha Skutt. He belted a two-run homer in the first inning, then later added a single and an RBI double. He then shifted from catcher to pitcher with two on and two out in the sixth inning to record a strikeout on three pitches and went on to earn the save.
“Playing both positions is something I’ve always done, and I feel like it gives me an edge in that I can step back and see what the hitter doesn’t see on both ends,” Capece said. “If I’m catching, I can maybe give the pitcher a little added insight or vice versa. I just feel like it gives me a little bit of an added knowledge of the game.”
Capece noted that he chose Creighton in part because its coaching staff committed to him being able to play both positions.
“Catching is definitely my first choice because I love to hit and that’s one of my strengths as a player,” Capece said. “But I’d love to be able to continue to play both positions as long as I can. It’s been a great experience.”
Capece credits his three siblings “for always being there and always keeping me grounded.” He has an older brother who has been his teammate for 12 years — they were both coached by their dad — and a younger brother who just began his high school baseball career. A younger sister is also an athlete.
“We’ve all been very close and very supportive of each other through athletics,” Capece said. “Our parents raised us right.”
In his spare time, Capece enjoys fishing and visiting new restaurants.
“I just love being around people, I’m looking forward to my time here,” Capece said.