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Scrappers topple WV in opener, 7-5

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Scrappers catcher Humberto Torres fields a ball hit in front of the plate during the Scrappers’ 7-5 win over West Virginia.

By STEVE RUMAN

Correspondent

NILES – A scheduling quirk had the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and West Virginia Black Bears slated to meet seven straight games last year to end the season.

One of those games was rained out, and five others were canceled due to COVID. Eastwood Field was never able to host a season-ending Buck Night and fireworks show as planned.

On Thursday, the Scrappers and Black Bears returned to Eastwood Field to open the 2022 campaign. This time, gray, gloomy skies gave way to sunshine, and a large Buck Night crowd enjoyed a 7-5 Scrappers win over the Black Bears.

A fireworks show concluded Opening Day festivities.

“Tonight was definitely about the fans, and that’s no joke,” said Scrappers manager Homer Bush. “We were going to do anything we could to give them a good performance tonight. They deserved it.”

Fittingly on Buck Night, Scrappers leadoff hitter Buck Anderson proved to be the offensive hero. The center fielder went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles, a pair of stolen bases, two runs scored and three RBIs.

The Scrappers wasted no time putting two runs on the board. Anderson opened the bottom of the first inning with an infield single. The Scrappers would then benefit from the wildness of Black Bears starter Peyton Olejnik, who hit a pair of batters and issued a walk to score Anderson.

The Scrappers scored their second run on Olejnik’s second walk of the inning.

Anderson led off the bottom of the second with a double. He stole third base, then gave the Scrappers a 3-0 lead when he was part of a double steal.

Anderson, a native of Torrance, California, and a product of St. Leo College (FL) is one of four current Scrappers who played for the team in 2021.

“I was so anxious to return here for another summer,” Anderson said. “The fans here are fantastic, the atmosphere is electric, especially on a night like this when there is a big crowd on hand.

“Last year was a great experience, this league is loaded with talent and it made me a better player.”

The Black Bears scored three runs in the top of the third to tie the game at 3-3. Scrappers starter Frank Elissalt (Miami, FL) retired the first two batters of the inning, then gave up four consecutive hits.

Anderson again sparked the Scrappers’ offense in the fourth. His one-out double plated Humberto Torres.

The Scrappers added a run in the sixth on an Adrian Salas pinch-hit single that scored Roberto Pena. After the Black Bears cut their deficit to 5-4 in the top of the eighth, the Scrappers scored two runs in the bottom half of the frame.

“All I’ve been hearing is that West Virginia is one of the best hitting teams in the league so we knew we had to keep scoring runs,” Bush said. “We kept responding whenever they scored. That’s a great sign.”

“From a pitching standpoint, our guys worked out of some jams. They did an excellent job of limiting the damage and keeping West Virginia in check.”

The Scrappers and Black Bears continue their four-game series tonight at 7:05.

sports@tribtoday.com

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