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Scrappers get swept by West Virginia

NILES — Earlier this week, West Virginia outfielder Turner Hill was named MLB Draft League Player of the Week for his performance for the week ending this past Sunday.

Hill’s performance the past three nights against the Scrappers is putting him in line to win the award in back-to-back weeks. On Thursday at Eastwood Field, Hill went 3-for-5 with a walk. He also stole a base and scored a pair of runs as the Black Bears defeated the Mahoning Valley Scrappers 9-3 to complete a three-game sweep.

In the three-game series, Hill pounded out nine hits in 15 at-bats.

The Scrappers fall to 18-34 (3-10) and have lost eight in a row. The Black Bears lift their record to 32-19 (9-3). Black Bears starting pitcher Luke Eldred also made a case to earn pitcher of the week. Eldred worked six innings and gave up two runs on five hits.

He recorded 12 strikeouts. The 105 pitches he threw is an Eastwood Field high this summer. Hill wasn’t the only WV player to shine at the plate. Willoughby South High product Jack Elliott went 4-for-4. All of Elliott’s hits were doubles. He scored a pair of runs and collected two RBI. Logan Mathieu went 4-for-5, scoring three runs and knocking in a pair.

WV pounded out 16 hits. They were also aided by three wild pitches, two hit batters, two passed balls and an error.

Dom Bucko and Gabe Gonzalez each collected a pair of hits, accounting for four of the Scrappers seven base hits.

The Scrappers will look to end their skid tonight when they begin a three-game home series against State College.

FEELING AT HOME

The current heat wave which has gripped the Mahoning Valley has sent many area residents scurrying indoors, seeking the comfort of air conditioning. Scrappers infielder Oscar Ponce feels quite comfortable while basking in the sun at Eastwood Field.

“This feels like home, this is what I grew up with so I’m good with this weather,” Ponce said. “The heat, the humidity, it’s all pretty natural for me.”

Ponce was born in Brownsville, TX, where he spent the first 10 years of his life before an employment opportunity moved his family to Mexico. Ponce remained south of the border throughout his middle school years then returned to Brownsville at the start of high school.

“Baseball was so different in Mexico, it was more like an event than a baseball game,” Ponce said. “There were lots of mascots, music and dancing. People were there to have fun. Here, baseball is taken more seriously.”

Ponce attended Texas Southern, where he was twice named to the All-Southwestern Athletic Conference team. He was batting .370 as a redshirt sophomore in 2020 before COVID ended the season. In 2021 he batted .342 with 40 RBI. This past spring he concluded his collegiate career at the University of Texas-Arlington, where he hit .270 with 30 RBI.

“It was a great career, I was really satisfied with how things played out,” Ponce said. “I had the privilege of playing in the regionals, playing in front of 6,000 or more fans. Then playing in the Sun Belt, the atmosphere was pretty big-time.”

Ponce hopes to catch the eye of a scout while playing with the Scrappers. He believes the MLB Draft League is the perfect showcase league to display his talents.

“The pitching here is really good, you see pitchers throwing in the mid-90s and if you can perform well here you’re going to get noticed,” Ponce said. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity, it’s all I can ask for.”

Ponce earned a degree in physical therapy, which might keep him close to the game even beyond his playing days.

“I’d love to stay connected to baseball in some way, maybe my degree will help me do that,” Ponce said.

sports@vindy.com

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