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Scrappers and Black Bears canceled again

NILES­ — Last weekend, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and West Virginia Black Bears had a three-game series at West Virginia canceled when a total of five players tested positive for COVID-19.

On Thursday, the Black Bears and Scrappers again had a game canceled for COVID-related reasons.

A heavy thunderstorm moved through Niles Thursday afternoon, dumping heavy rain onto the playing surface at Eastwood Field. Rain eventually gave way to clearer skies and the Scrappers grounds crew lined and prepped the field for play.

However, following a 90-minute delay, it was announced that the game would not be played “to allow for additional testing and contact tracing of members of both teams.”

“We are adhering to MLB draft league health and safety protocols and will practice caution as we follow guidance of experts,” said a statement the Scrappers posted on social media. “Further updates when available.”

The Scrappers and Black Bears are scheduled to conclude their series – and the season – tonight at Eastwood Field.

After having the three-game series canceled over the weekend, the two teams played at Eastwood Field on Tuesday for the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series. Wednesday’s game was rained out.

Heading into this week’s series, a combination of factors including COVID, the MLB draft, free agent signings and players leaving for college left West Virginia with a depleted roster. The Black Bears were left with just seven pitchers and seven position players. So, in an effort to allow both teams to finish out the season, the Scrappers transferred six of their players to the Black Bears at the start of the series.

On Tuesday, two former Scrappers were in the West Virginia starting lineup. On Thursday, the Black Bears’ potential lineup included three former Scrappers.

“Pretty crazy, you’re playing for the Scrappers one day, then the next thing you know you’re sitting in the visiting clubhouse, hanging out with what was the opposition,” said Scrappers-turned-Black Bears pitcher Tyler Srbinovich. “It’s kind of surreal, but it’s baseball. It’s been a fun experience.”

Srbinovich is a 2017 Niles McKinley graduate who three weeks ago became the first Niles native to play for the Niles-based Scrappers. He made his first start on July 22 in front of a Buck Night crowd. He made a total of six appearances with the Scrappers before trading uniforms.

“It’s been pretty neat in that for a few weeks I was able to learn a lot about the game from a great group of players and coaches, now I get to pick the brains of a whole new group,” Srbinovich said. “As a baseball player you’re always looking at perfecting your craft any way possible. I just look at this as a pretty unique opportunity.”

Srbinovich is expected to be the starting pitcher tonight for West Virginia when the Black Bears and Scrappers close the season at Eastwood Field.

After pitching against the Black Bears on several occasions over the past few weeks, he will be trying to help them win a game that could possibly decide the first place finisher in the MLB Draft League. As of Thursday night the Black Bears were one-half game behind Trenton in the league standings.

“I’ve heard all about it, I’ve heard about it from both sides,” Srbinovich said with a laugh. “I seriously love the challenge and the added pressure. I’ve always liked to be in pressure situations whether it was at Niles or Waynesburg.”

Srbinovich believes his familiarity with the Scrappers could be both helpful and a hindrance to his scheduled start.

“All those guys in the Scrappers lineup, they know me, they know my tendencies,” Srbinovich said. “But at the same time I’ve watched them closely on a daily basis for the past three weeks. I don’t think either side has an advantage.”

The Scrappers front office announced that “further updates regarding (tonight’s) game will be provided as available.”

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