NILES - After enduring a five-game losing streak that saw the team's batting average fall to .210 and the team slip into last place in the New York-Penn League's Pinckney Division, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers had several big hits and took advantage of Williamsport's pitching struggles to defeat the Crosscutters 6-2 Tuesday night at Eastwood Field.
After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first inning, the Scrappers came right back in the bottom half as Tyler Naquin singled with one out and, after Charlie Valerio flew out to center field, Juan Romero lofted a fly ball to right that carried all the way into Mahoning Valley's bullpen for a 2-1 lead.
It was his fourth home run in seven games this season.
The Associated Press
Crosscutters’ baserunner Diego Gonzales dived back to first base as the Scrappers first baseman Evan Frazar waits on the ball on a pick-off attempt during the first inning on Tuesday at Eastwood Field.
The Scrappers then added to their lead in the third as Williamsport starter Jonathan Musser lost all control of his pitches.
He began the inning by walking Erik Gonzalez, Evan Frazar and Robert Garcia to load the bases with no outs. After striking out Jairo Kelly, Musser walked Naquin to score a run and end his night after 1 innings and 48 pitches, with only 22 strikes.
"We got a little bit of help but we did some things also," Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak said. "That's what we need to win."
Reliever Luis Gonzalez entered the game and promptly surrendered a two-run single to Valerio to make the score 5-1. He finally got out of the inning by striking out Romero and Mark Bradley.
Naquin tacked on another run in the fourth as he doubled home Robel Garcia.
Naquin, the Cleveland Indians' top draft pick from Texas A&M, has made the transition to the professional ranks with flying colors thus far, batting .438 (7 for 16). He went 3 for 4 and drove in his first two professional runs Tuesday.
"Strike zone's a little bit smaller, so that helps a little bit," Naquin said. "Just swing at what you can hit. You're going to get fooled here and there."
"He had some good at-bats," Kubiak said. "I think he's still got to adjust to the speed of the game."
Naquin did have one rookie mistake. After doubling in the fourth, he took off for third on Valerio's grounder to third base. Williamsport third baseman Mitch Walding threw to second baseman Trey Ford to pick Naquin off.
"He got too aggressive on the bases," Kubiak said. "He just made a complete mistake. He wasn't trying to sneak over to third, he just took off."
After a rocky first inning in which he allowed a run and two hits and his defense committed two errors, Scrappers starter Ryan Merritt settled down to pitch five innings and allow the one run with six hits. He walked one and struck out three.
"I've seen him even down in the spring, his first inning he doesn't throw as well, then he kind of gets better," Kubiak said. "I thought in the fourth inning I saw a little more velocity out of him, maybe a little bit more control."
"I just got strung out. I can't really tell you (what happened)," Naquin said.
The deciding game of the three-game series against Williamsport will be tonight at 7:05.