Mahoning Valley splits bill with Auburn

NILES – After recording one lone hit two nights ago against the Auburn Doubledays, the Scrappers bats briefly came alive in Game 1 of Thursday night’s doubleheader at Eastwood Field.

Mahoning Valley racked up six hits, scored three runs and held Auburn scoreless as the Scrappers came out on top, 3-0, in the shortened, seven-inning ball game.

However, the offensive output was short lived as the Scrappers only mustered two hits in the night cap, falling 2-0.

In the third inning of Game 1, Scrappers’ leadoff hitter Ordomar Valdez landed a single to right field and stole second, and first baseman drew Leo Castillo a walk. With two on, the Scrappers got on the scoreboard when left fielder Jose Martinez drove in two runs with a triple to left. Martinez went the other way with the pitch and sent the ball sailing over Auburn’s left fielder’s head, allowing Valdez and Castillo to come across to score.

“He swung the bat really well, the ball jumps off his bat,” Scrappers coach Ted Kubiak said.

The Scrappers struck again for another run in the fifth thanks to a solo shot from Castillo, who took advantage of a 2-0 count and blasted one that cleared the fence in left field. The home run was Castillo’s first and the Scrappers’ third bomb of the season.

While the Scrappers manufactured runs, starting pitcher Sean Brady redeemed himself from his last start on June 13 against the Jamestown Jammers. His first start of the season – also the Scrappers’ first game of the season – was a rude awakening for Brady.

The Jammers shelled him as he allowed eight hits and gave up five runs. Thursday night’s game was a different story.

“The first game, I threw very well, just a couple of things didn’t go my way and that’s baseball,” Brady said. “Going out here (Thursday) I just tried to do the same exact thing, and tonight it just turned out a little bit different than the other night.”

Brady went four innings again, but this time only allowed one hit and surrendered no runs. The umpire’s moving strike zone was difficult for the pitchers on both sides to decipher at times, but Brady said he established the inside part of the plate and expanded the zone as best he could.

“The umpire tonight wasn’t calling the inside portion, so I just had to switch up my game plan and play on my strengths, just being able to throw strikes and make them hit the ball,” Brady said.

Reliever Justin Garcia came on in the fifth and pitched two hitless, scoreless innings for the win, and lefty Luis Gomez took the hill in the seventh to pick up the save.

Just when it looked as though the Scrappers’ bats finally got hot, they reverted back to their one-hit tricks in the second game. Auburn rendered Mahoning Valley (3-5) runless again and allowed only two hits. The pitching was good again as starter Juan Santana only gave up one run in five innings of work with six strikeouts. The Scrappers just couldn’t hit the ball.

“That’s the whole problem, we just didn’t hit enough. Luckily Martinez and Castillo hit in the first game,” Kubiak said.

The Doubledays jumped out to an early lead in the first inning. Auburn second baseman Bryan Mejia came aboard with an infield single and stole second. First baseman Jean Valdez brought Mejia home with an RBI single down the leftfield line.

The Scrappers threatened in the fifth when shortstop Drake Roberts made it to second on a single and an error by the pitcher, but they couldn’t get the big hit to bring him around.

Auburn (3-4) struck again with another run in the sixth inning. Rookie Cameron Hill, who was drafted in the 17th round of the 2014 draft, had a rough first outing on the mound. He came into the game in the sixth inning and gave up two hits and a walk right off the bat.

After a fielder’s choice out at home and flyout to right field, it appeared Hill would get out of the inning unscathed until he threw a wild pitch that allowed the runner from the third to score. He bounced back and ended the inning on a good note with a called strikeout.

Hill might have gotten knocked around on the mound, but he loaded the bases and got out of the jam with minimal, one-run damage. It could have been a lot worse.

“He got in trouble a little bit, but he threw well to come back,” Kubiak said. “He certainly didn’t let up, he kept throwing hard.”

As the Scrappers’ struggles at the plate persist and base hits continue to elude them, Kubiak said all the clubhouse can do is wait for the new guys to get acclimated to the program and hope for better hitting.

“We’re gonna be OK,” Kubiak said. “I don’t want to get in any rush to judgement.”

The Scrappers concluded their first three-game home stand of the season against Auburn with a record of 1-2 and will be on the road this weekend to face the Batavia Muckdogs.