NILES - Thursday night's Mahoning Valley Scrappers game at Eastwood Field was proof that anything can happen in baseball and that the game is never over until it's over.
In a wild, back-and-forth, near-five-hour game that featured everything from extra innings to four different lead changes to walk-off delight and disappointment, the Scrappers finally fell to the Connecticut Tigers 10-9 in 14 long, grueling innings.
The game was tied at 9-9 after the eighth inning, and just when it looked as though the game would never end, the Tigers broke the stagnant six-inning stalemate to secure the one-run victory.
Tribune Chronicle / Jeff Lange
Mahoning Valley’s Taylor Murphy is congratulated by general manager Ted Kubiak as he rounds third base after hitting a home run to far right field in the fifth inning.
With Scrappers pitcher Anthony Vizcaya on the mound, Connecticut first baseman Will Maddox singled on a bunt groundball and advanced to second on a throwing error by Scrappers catcher Francisco Mejia. Rashad Brown followed with a double to left, which allowed Maddox to score the game-winning run for the Tigers.
Mahoning Valley pitcher Luis Gomez had a rough night in relief, and rough is an understatement.
The Scrappers built up a three-run lead over the Tigers going into the top of the seventh inning. Their bats were hot from the start and scored at least one run in every inning except the second, sixth and seventh at the time.
Mahoning Valley was coasting and clicking on all cylinders until they reached the seventh inning when the wheels fell off in a hurry.
Gomez came into the game and walked the first batter he faced, gave up a double and then it only got worse from there.
The Tigers teed off on Gomez, batted around their entire lineup and struck for six runs in the inning. The battered Gomez surrendered six hits, three of them doubles, and allowed two walks. He didn't even make it out of the inning as Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak relieved Gomez of his duties after he gave up a two-run RBI single to the 10th batter he faced.
Edward Estrella came on and finally stopped the bleeding with an inning-ending strikeout. Luckily for Gomez, Castillo's homer saved him from a loss. He is 3-0 with a 3.71 ERA.
When it looked as though Mahoning Valley would run out of time to play catch-up, down four runs, the Scrappers loaded the bases with a walk and two singles in the eighth. With two outs, first baseman Leo Castillo stepped up and made the biggest play of the night in the clutch. On a 0-1 count, Castillo blasted a grand slam to left to tie the game at nine. The game eventually went into extra innings.
The Scrappers had a chance to avoid extra innings and end the game in the bottom of the ninth when they loaded the bases with two outs, but the rally turned into a missed opportunity. Locked in a 3-2 count, Dave Roberts struck out looking.
In extra innings, the Scrappers squandered a number of key opportunities to score. They stranded runners at first and second in the 10th with two outs and left runners at first and second again in the 12th.
Then in the top of the 13th, when it finally appeared the Scrappers would break the endless tie, the Tigers managed to escape unscathed yet again. After two consecutive singles, a wild pitch placed both runners in scoring position for Mahoning Valley with one out. Despite the one-out advantage, Roberts struck out swinging and Allen grounded out to end the inning and put another damper on yet another potential walk-off win.
MURPHY MAGIC: With the bases empty in the fifth, Taylor Murphy cranked a homer that landed in the Scrappers bullpen in right field. The solo shot was Murphy's second home run and the Scrappers' eighth team home run of the season. Castillo's grand slam in the eighth was the team's ninth home run.
ON PACE FOR RECORDS: On Thursday night, Steve Patterson recorded his team-leading 10th double of the season. Through the first 33 games, he is averaging a double every 3.5 games. If he continues this pace, he has a shot at tying Omar Moraga for third place in a season with 21 doubles. Moraga posted 21 doubles in the Scrappers' inaugural year of 1999.