Scrappers win 6-2, End skid at five
NILES - After a five game freefall, the Scrappers hope to have put their early season struggles behind them, picking up a big 6-2 win against the Crosscutters on Tuesday night.
The offense didn’t waste any time putting runs on the board, plating five in the first two innings. Juan Romero was the first to strike, driving a ball into the Scrapper bullpen in right field to give the Scrappers a 2-0 advantage. It was Romero’s fourth homerun on the season.
In the second inning, Williamsport starter Jonathon Musser couldn’t buy a strike, walking the bases loaded to start the frame. He walked Tyler Naquin to bring home a third run. Musser was chased after just an inning and a third.
Catcher Charlie Velario made sure the Scrappers capitalized on the scoring opportunity, squirting a ball through the left side off of replacement Luis Gonzalez to bring home two more runs, running the score to 5-1.
It was certainly a sight for manager Ted Kubiak’s sore eyes, looking up and having a four-run advantage after two.
“It was good," Kubiak said. "Their spirits have been up, they had a good pregame, it was good to get a win.”
Kubiak insisted frustration wasn’t an issue for the offense during the slide, but if it was, it sure wasn’t apparent, at least early on. Scrapper hitters appeared to be more comfortable at the plate than they had been the last several games, working deep into counts and forcing Crosscutter pitchers to throw strikes.
They didn’t light the hit column on the scoreboard on fire, collecting a modest eight hits, but they made sure to get them when it counted, something that has been an Achilles heel as of late. They also collected five walks on the night.
“We got a little bit of help, but we did some things also," Kubiak said. "It worked out [well]. We’ve got to get those kind of nights.”
More than anything, though, it was a team effort. Every Scrapper reached base with the exception of Hunter Jones, who came just short of his first homerun on the year when he drove a ball deep to right field that died on the track, and five Scrappers crossed home plate.
Of note was Tyler Naquin, who had his first multi-hit night since his first start. He went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a run scored.
“That’s baseball for you,” Naquin said. “Your gonna hit slumps, your gonna hit streaks where you’re not going as well. But that’s just one at bat closer to turning it on, getting hot and winning eight in a row.”
Lefty Ryan Merrit was on the bump looking to give his team a solid outing and a chance to win behind the offensive output. Merrit had a bit of trouble in his first outing, giving up four runs on nine hits in four innings.
He had to tiptoe around trouble early allowing a run in the first and putting runners on second and third with one out in the second, but he escaped with only the one earned run. After that Merrit settled in retiring 11 of his next 14 batters. He exited with a 6-1 lead after five innings, finishing with three strikeouts and a walk.
“I’ve seen down there in the spring that in the first inning he doesn’t throw as well,” remarked Kubiak. “I thought maybe in the fourth inning I saw a little more velocity out of him, a little more control. Being ahead helps too. He’s gotta learn to pitch a little bit, but he did [well].”
The bullpen was also solid, with Jacob Lee, Rafael Homblert, and Jack Wagoner throwing a combined four innings to finish off the win. Lee and Homblert both struck out three, and Lee allowed the only run though it was unearned.
“We have to see these guys a little more to see what we have, but they throw the ball," Kubiak said of his bullpen. "We’ve got some guys who can get the ball up there. If they throw strikes we’ll be good."
Merrit picked up the win, his first of the year. Taking the loss was Williamsport starter Jonathan Musser. The Scrappers get a chance to win the rubber match and take the series Wednesday night at 7:05.
-The Scrappers entered the day with the worst offense in the New York-Penn League, carrying a team batting average of only .210. They had been outscored 37-21 in their first eight games.
-Third baseman Erik Gonzalez left the game in the third inning with an apparent injury to his side. Trainer Matthew Beaugard said he had taken a hard knee to the hip, but the extent of the injury was unclear.