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State College hammers Mahoning Valley, 8-1

NILES — When the Mahoning Valley Scrappers last played at home prior to Tuesday, they concluded a three-game series against State College by winning back-to-back, 5-5 games which were decided in sudden death.

Tuesday, the two teams returned to Eastwood Field to begin a three-game series. This time, the drama was pretty much removed from the game in the third inning when the Spikes scored five runs.

The end result was an 8-1 win for State College in front of 1,465 fans,

The loss drops the Scrappers to 22-40 (7-16). State College, which is one game out in the MLB Draft League second-half standings, lifts its record to 34-27 (13-8).

The top of the third inning proved to be a microcosm of the Scrappers’ season since early July. State College scored five runs on six hits, but they also benefited from three costly MV errors.

The five runs would be all State College would need, thanks to the pitching of Louis Davenport, who worked 5.2 innings, giving up one run on four hits. Davenport set a State College single-game record by recording 12 strikeouts.

Will Prater, a recent addition to the Scrappers roster, collected two of the team’s five hits. The Scrappers’ lone run came in the sixth inning on an Oscar Ponce RBI single.

The Scrappers and Spikes continue their three-game series tonight at 7:05.

MAKING THE CUT

Scrappers outfielder Dom Bucko has quite the side gig when he’s not playing baseball.

“I love to cut hair. It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed,” Bucko said. “Our barber in town retired when I was about 11 years old, and my dad told me to practice on his head. Before I knew it I was cutting my brother’s hair, my friends’ hair. Now I cut hair in the clubhouse for some of our teammates.

“I sometimes even do my own hair, though it’s tough to get the back of my head. If I want to look really good I’ll go somewhere to get it done.”

On the baseball diamond, Bucko unfortunately had his seasons trimmed in both 2020 and 2022. He’s hoping that his stint in the MLB Draft League will make up for lost time while catching the eyes of MLB scouts.

Bucko, who hails from Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, began his collegiate career in 2018 at Cuyahoga Community College. In two years at CCC, Bucko posted a .372 batting average with 20 home runs and over 100 RBIs.

In 2020 Bucko transferred to Youngstown State University. He was off to a hot start with the Penguins before COVID shut down the season.

“I really thought 2020 was going to be my year for the draft,” Bucko said. “I felt everything was falling in place, then COVID hit, and then the draft was cut in half. Things just didn’t work out,” he said.

Bucko had another strong season in 2021. He hit .344 with 10 HR and 53 RBIs. However, this past spring Bucko was hampered with a season-long groin injury, curtailing his playing time. He was limited to just 137 plate appearances, batting .248.

“It was tough, because even when I felt good I was told that I had to cut back on what I was doing to prevent further damage,” Bucko said. “It was a frustrating spring. I couldn’t be more thankful for being a part of this (MLB Draft) league, and having the opportunity to prove myself to scouts.”

Bucko is currently batting .314 and his numbers continue to rise. He is also widely regarded as one of the top defensive outfielders in the league.

“It’s encouraging because I’m regularly facing pitchers who are throwing in the mid to upper 90s,” Bucko said. “I feel like it’s only a matter of time before I get a shot with either another Independent club or maybe sign as a free agent.

“I feel like my best baseball is still ahead of me.”

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