Scrappers’ rally falls short in loss

NILES – The Mahoning Valley Scrappers might have lost Tuesday night, but they didn’t quit before the final out.

The Scrappers faced a seven-run deficit after the first six innings against the State College Spikes but didn’t let the big lead overwhelm them. They battled back and narrowed the deficit to three runs at one point.

Despite Mahoning Valley’s valiant efforts to rouse a comeback, the deficit proved too lofty to overcome. The Spikes added four more runs in the ninth to suppress the rally and top the Scrappers, 13-8.

“(Tuesday) was an outstanding character builder, we showed we could come back,” Scrappers pitching coach Greg Hibbard said. “It shows the enthusiasm we can create throughout the game. Unfortunately that four-run ninth inning was kind of a backbreaker, but they have a good club over there, and we battled them pretty good.”

State College (31-14) began building its lead with Scrappers starter Juan Santana on the mound, who struggled with his command and had a hard time locating the strike zone.

“He tried to throw the ball carefully not to make mistakes as opposed to throwing the ball with conviction,” Hibbard said.

The worst of Santana’s struggles began in the top of the third inning. Santana recorded two easy outs to start the inning, but the Spikes forced him to fight for the final out. He gave up a solo home run by Spikes shortstop Robelys Reyes to right field, surrendered a groundball single through the right side and walked the next three batters. He threw 11 balls in a row before escaping the inning with a groundout to second.

After Santana gave up the solo homer to Reyes in the third, Hibbard noticed Santana’s focus had faltered. He lasted only 3 2/3 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits and five walks.

Hibbard said he thought Santana had been progressing nicely but took a step backward following Tuesday night’s loss.

“Today was unfortunate, I thought he was in a good spot, doing a good job of executing his pitches and working on his delivery,” Hibbard said.

Offensively, the Scrappers’ (19-26) bats fell asleep after the first inning but awoke in the sixth and seventh innings. They scored one run in the sixth and continued to whittle away at the seven-run lead in the seventh when the team put up four runs.

“We’re battling, as you can see we’re playing good baseball,” Scrappers outfielder Bradley Zimmer said. “We came out swinging in those last couple of innings ready to go and brought it down to the wire.”

Zimmer, who was three-for-five in Tuesday night’s contest, contributed to the rally in the ninth with a solo shot that landed just left of the right-field foul pole.

“They were working me in and I was looking for something out over the plate, and I just got a good pitch to hit,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer said even though State College took two out of three, the series served as a confidence booster moving forward. The team showed what it was made up by holding their own against the Spikes and pushing the premier team in the New York Penn League Pinckney division to the limit.

“We lost two games, but they were two games we played well in,” Zimmer said. “I mean if those guys score 13 runs, they should win every time. You got to tip your cap and go onto the next day. These guys are obviously a good team sitting at the top of our league, and we played them tight.”