|WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. Three runs, four hits and five errors is a scoring line worthy of scorn from any baseball manager. But for the Williamsport Crosscutters, it was the formula for success in a grind 'em out 3-2 victory over the Auburn Doubledays in the opening game of the New York-Penn League playoffs Friday night at Bowman Field.
The Crosscutters killed the Doubledays on nibbles and dribbles, wiping out Auburn's early 2-0 lead with scrappy runs in the fifth and sixth innings, then patched together a hit leadoff batter and a clutch single by a .234 hitter for the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. This being a best-of-three series, the loss puts Auburn in a difficult hole, needing to win two straight games at Falcon Park in order in order to survive the first round. Tonight's game starts at 7 p.m.
Ace reliever Shaun Marcum, a hard-throwing righthander, who entering the game was allowing a miniscule .129 batting average against hitters he faced, followed a shutout eighth inning by plunking Adam Boeve to lead off the ninth. Anthony Bocchino sacrifice bunted Boeve to second, but Marcum struck out Brett Holmes for the second out. Up came Justin Harris, the aforementioned .234 hitter, who hung in the batter's box for six pitches before flaring a single to right - Williamsport's hardest hit of the game. Boeve rounded third in full stride and beat right fielder Mike Galloway's throw home with a headfirst slide, ending the game and sending the Crosscutters pouring out of their dugout toward second base toward Harris, the unlikely hero. It was a long (3 hours, 19 minutes) and very frustrating way to lose for the Doubledays, who left 12 men on base and missed several chances to put the game out of reach. Vito Chiaravalloti, who may have become something of a league-wide celebrity by virtue of both his name and his triple crown, hit a one-run single in the first, scoring Paul Richmond, but exemplified Auburn's scoring troubles the rest of the way.
In the seventh inning, the Doubledays loaded the bases with one out for Chiaravalloti, but the slugger hit into a slow-developing double-play ball to third base, and missed beating the throw to first by a nanosecond, if umpire Bobby Price's call was correct (Auburn manager Dennis Holmberg argued it).
Then Auburn used some small ball of its own to load the bases again for Chiaravalloti in the ninth. Christian Snavely reached on an error, and Juan Peralta followed with a perfect drag bunt single down the first base line. Ryan Roberts grounded to third baseman Craig Stansberry, but his only play was to first, leaving the bag open for Richmond
After Williamsport reliever Chris Hernandez threw a ball to Richmond, Williamsport opted to tempt fate by intentionally walking Auburn's catcher to again load the bases for Chiaravalloti. Chiaravalloti fouled two balls off and worked the count to 2-2, but looked at a called third strike near the outside edge of the plate, and was left to stare in disagreement at home plate umpire Alan Porter.
Auburn starter Kurt Isenberg was more than effective over his five innings of work, allowing just an unearned run in the fifth as Holmes caught third baseman Ryan Roberts napping with a leadoff bunt single, and Harris followed by reaching first on a playable ground ball that Roberts booted.
Richmond hit a roller to short, and Harris's throw to first drew Mike Madrid off the bag, allowing Snavely to score for the 2-0 lead. Williamsport gamely managed to tie it in the sixth despite getting no hits and striking out three times against Auburn reliever Davis Romero. Stansberry led off with a walk, and stole both second and third while Romero was in the process of striking out Boeve for the second out. Romero's 1-0 pitch to Bocchino, a lefthanded batter, sailed over Richmond's glove to the backstop, allowing Stansberry to score. Tom Mastny (8-0, 2.26 ERA) will put his undefeated record, not to mention Auburn's amazing season to date, on the line tonight at Falcon Park against Williamsport lefty Paul Maholm (2-1, 1.83).
The CITIZEN 6 September 2003