NILES - The good news is that the Mahoning Valley Scrappers never quit Monday in their game against Jamestown.
Down by eight in the bottom of the ninth, the Scrappers rallied for four runs on a pair of two-run homers by Erik Gonzalez and Andrew Campbell.
The bad news is that one strong inning couldn't overcome eight innings of ugliness.
The Scrappers committed five errors and stranded nine runners in losing for the fifth time in six outings since the All-Star break. This time it was an 8-4 loss in front of an announced crowd of 1,505 fans at Eastwood Field.
It appeared as though many of those fans never made it to their seats.
Jamestown scored the first two runs of the game in the second inning, then proceeded to pile it on. After Scrappers starter Ryan Merritt retired the first five batters he faced, he gave up a two-out double, followed by an RBI single by Sharif Othman. An error by Campbell in right field plated the second run of the inning.
Merritt (3-4) gave up just four hits in 5 2/3 innings, but he was hurt by the defensive mistakes. The Scrappers committed three of their miscues while Merritt was on the mound.
A throwing error by Scrappers catcher Richard Stock helped lead to Jamestown's third run in the fifth. The Jammers blew the game open in the sixth with three runs. The first run of the inning was scored when Scrappers right fielder Juan Romero dropped a fly ball with a runner on third. The lead was extended to 6-0 on a Ronny Peralta single which scored a pair of runs.
The Scrappers committed two more errors in the seventh which led to a pair of Jamestown runs.
Meanwhile, Jamestown starter Drew Steckenrider (1-1) pitched the best game of his short professional career to earn his first win. The righty worked five scoreless innings, surrendering just one base hit while striking out six.
Steckenrider was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the eighth round of the June 2012 draft. At the University of Tennessee, he was used mainly as a long-relief pitcher.
"This was my longest outing since high school, so I feel pretty good about the performance," Steckenrider said. "I was able to get ahead in the count, and that kept my pitch count down. If I continue to work on my control, I should be OK."
Asked to compare hitters in the New York-Penn League to those he faced in college, Steckenrider said he actually prefers pitching to his professional counterparts.
"Wooden bats make a huge difference," Steckenrider pointed out. "The first pitch I threw tonight was a rocket to center. In college, it goes over the fence. Here, it was just a long flyout."
Three Jammers pitchers combined to walk nine batters. However, the Scrappers never made them pay until the ninth. After Juan Romero walked with one out, Gonzalez belted his second home run of the season over the wall in left-center. Two batters later, Campbell belted a homer to right - the first of his professional career.
The 20-year-old Australian was drafted by the Indians as a free agent in 2008.
"It was a long time coming, more than three years to be exact," Campbell said. "I went up there in the ninth with the same approach as I always take to the plate.
"You can't worry about the score. You can't worry about anything that happened in the game up to that point. You just have to have total focus every at-bat. That's how I try to approach things."
The loss to Jamestown drops the Scrappers record to 27-32. They lost five games of a six-game homestand.
The Scrappers hit the road tonight to begin a six-game trip that will take them to Batavia and Auburn.
TOP DOG: Jamestown starter Drew Steckenrider pitched five scoreless innings, surrendering just one base hit while striking out six.
IN THE DOGHOUSE: The Scrappers defense committed five errors.
BARK OF THE NIGHT: "This game is more comical than a Laurel and Hardy movie." Muttered by a disgruntled Scrappers fan shortly after the team committed its fifth error.
KIBBLES N BITS: Outfielder Tyler Naquin, who has been out of the lineup with a lower back injury, is expected to return to the lineup in the near future. Logan Vick, who turned an ankle last week, is making progress and is also expected to return soon. ... Jamestown has been home to a professional baseball team since 1939. ... The Jammers have been a Miami Marlins affiliate since 2002. Jamestown is best known as the hometown of legendary comedian Lucille Ball.
STADIUM SCRAPS: The Scrappers begin a six-game road trip tonight. Stops will be made at Batavia and Auburn. They return home next Monday for six games in what will be their final homestand of the season.