September 4, 2017 Mahoning Valley Scrappers

The 2017 Scrappers were a solid team, but they lost three in a row to end August then had to fight the weather to begin September as they lost the first weekend of the month due to rain. They ended up just cancelling two of their last six games, but were able to make up Sunday’s game against Batavia with a double header on September fourth.

Looking to maintain a hold on the first place position in the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League, Gregori Vasquez made the start to the opening game in Batavia. He allowed a single in the first, but otherwise kept things boring for the Muckdogs until the third. Then, he hit a batter, but was bailed out by Gian Paul Gonzalez who caught him stealing. The bases were then loaded after a walk, a Nolan Jones error and single. Vasquez got himself out of this jam by inducing a double play.

The Scrappers had scored a pair in the top of the third thanks to a two run Oscar Gonzalez (pictured at top) double, but the Muckdogs got it back in the bottom of the fourth. After a double and a passed ball, it seemed Vasquez would escape unscathed when he struck out two in a row. Instead, a single and double with two outs brought home two runs to tie the game. After a scoreless inning, both teams traded homers in the seventh as Oscar Gonzalez lead off the top half with a solo shot, then Sean Reynolds tied it in the bottom half with a solo shot of his own.

In the final inning, Hosea Nelson pinch hit for GP Gonzalez and nearly won the game on his own. He walked, stole second, went to third on a sac bunt and scored on a Jesse Berardi single. Nolan Jones also singled, but the Scrappers were kept from further scoring. After going six innings and allowing just three runs, Vasquez was pulled for closer Jean Carlos Mejia. He earned the save with a 1-2-3 inning including a strike out.

Less than three hours after the first pitch, Kirk McCarty was tabbed to start game two. He struck out the first three batters of the game, then Jonathan Laureano backed him up with a solo home run to start the second. After another perfect inning in the second, the Scrappers offense continued to pile on with a Jones double and Will Benson homer. While McCarty allowed his first hit in the bottom half, he finished his outing without a run allowed through three innings.

Benson gets ready to swing during a 2016 AZL Indians game on the road against Cincinnati in Goodyear, AZ. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

James Karinchak replaced McCarty, striking out three in a row in the fourth after allowing two singles to begin the inning. Clark Scolamiero and Mitch Reeves doubled the following inning to add a run, but the Muckdogs responded against Karinchak thanks to a single, double and Nelson error. After a single allowed a second run, Karinchak was pulled for Maiker Manzanillo. While Manzanillo struck out his only batter faced, he was relieved by Francisco Lopez in the sixth, who struck out all three batters. With a two run lead intact, MV had a copy of their previous scoring situation as Jones singled and Benson brought him home with a two run jack. Jon Teaney was then called upon to finish the game and allowed two hits, but struck out two in a scoreless seventh.

Overall, Scrappers pitching struck out 22 batters in 14 innings with just one walk allowed. They used seven pitchers in all and only Vasquez and Karinchak allowed runs. Offensively, each game had an obvious MVP as Oscar Gonzalez had three of four RBI in game one, but didn’t play in game two where Benson had four of six RBI. The home runs for Benson were numbers 9 and 10 in 2017 and marked his second multi-homer game of the season. He would go on to hit 22 in each of the next two seasons.

The Scrappers used this double header sweep to guarantee their spot at the top of the division, then won their final two games as well for good measure. They finished the season 44-29, five games ahead of the second place State College Spikes. Despite their dominance, they were swept in two games in the first round of the play-offs by the Vermont Lake Monsters.

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