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Scrappers’ offense falters in 4-2 loss to Black Bears

NILES — One night after perhaps their worst outing of the season, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ pitching staff turned in a solid performance Saturday against the league-leading West Virginia Black Bears.

Unfortunately, the usually-reliable Scrappers offense was off, and as a result the Scrappers fell to the Black Bears 4-2.

The Scrappers fall to 23-28-2. They are now 10 games behind West Virginia in the MLB Draft League standings.

“Any time you put on a uniform you want to win,” said Scrappers first baseman Jason Nall. “I feel like we’re part entertainers, we want to give the fans what they came here for and they come to see wins so in that regard I’m always disappointed when I leave the field after a loss.”

“The nice thing about baseball is that there is always tomorrow. You have to have that attitude as a team and as an individual player. This game is so tough. The best hitters to ever play this game are going to fail at the plate more than they succeed. You have to always be able to look ahead.”

For two-thirds of the game, Scrappers starter Jason Rackers gave his bullpen a much-needed break. Rackers worked six innings, giving up just two runs on three hits. He gave up an RBI single in the third and a solo home run off the bat of Andrew Miller to open the fourth.

The Scrappers scored their first run in the third on a wild pitch that plated Sam Crail. Bobby Sparling singled home Jarrod Belbin in the fifth to tie the game at 2-2.

The game remained knotted until the seventh when the Scrappers turned to their bullpen. The Black Bears immediately scored two runs without the benefit of a base hit. The inning included three walks and a pair of throwing errors.

“You just always have to stay mentally strong, that’s a huge part of baseball,” Nall said.

At 25 years old, Nall is the elder statesman on the Scrappers’ roster. He graduated from California State University in 2019 with a degree in psychology. He has since been “doing anything and everything possible to stay in the game I love.”

“In this league I’m up there in age for sure,” Nall said. “I feel like I still have what it takes to play at the next level. I’m just hoping I can prove myself.”

A native of Los Angeles, Nall noted that California’s strict shutdown policies during COVID limited his ability to remain active during the past two years. He did have the advantage of being able to regularly pick the brain of former Major League player and current Scrappers manager Coco Crisp. Nall and Crisp are related through a marriage.

“I’ve always been his biggest fan and I’ve always been privileged to be able to pick his brain,” Nall said. “He’s a great person. He’s so knowledgeable when it comes to the game. I’ve been lucky to be able to lean on him when it comes to my baseball career.”

Nall knows that the MLB Draft League may be one of his final options in terms of achieving his dream of playing professional baseball.

“I’m just thankful for this opportunity,” Nall said. “I’m thankful that things are opened up around here. I’m enjoying my time here. Coming from L.A. I’m loving this small-town feel. Everything feels right, I just have to put things together and have a solid next couple of weeks.”

Springfield Local product Jarrett Orbin (Geneva College) pitched a perfect final two innings for the Scrappers, recording a pair of strikeouts.

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