Photo courtesy of George Napolitano
The Brooklyn Cyclones (21-16) kept their cool in the clutch to take the rubber match of the three game series against the State College Spikes (11-27). Starting pitchers, Carlos Vazquez and Nicholas Kingham were entrenched in a pitcher’s duel through 3.0 innings, but both offenses began clicking in the fourth inning. Vazquez was tagged for three runs, but struck out three and lasted 6.0 innings for just the second time this year. The Cyclones drew first blood, but the Spikes matched them all game long until Travis Taijeron’s grand slam broke a 4-4 tie. Tyson Seng (1-1) picked up the win in the 9-5 victory and Todd Weldon earned the save.
Vazquez and Kingham matched each other over three scoreless frames, but Cole Frenzel broke a 0-0 tie with a solo home run in the top of the fourth. The homer was his first as a professional.
State College answered right back in the bottom of the inning with a home run of their own – a three-run shot. However, those three runs were all the Spikes could manage off of Vazquez.
Although Charley Thurber singled to lead off the fifth and Travis Taijeron followed suit with a double, Kingham managed to strand the two runners.
Brooklyn, however, greeted his replacement – Michael Jefferson – with a two-run sixth inning to tie the ballgame at 3-3. After Danny Muno doubled to lead off the inning, he was moved over to third on a groundball to the second baseman. He was then driven in on a sac-fly by Javier Rodriguez, who collected his team-leading 24th RBI on the play.
With two outs and the bases empty, the Cyclones rallied to tie the game at 3-3. Richard Lucas, who followed up J-Rod’s at bat with a walk, advanced to third on Thurber’s single and then scored the game-tying run on a groundball off the bat of Brian Harrison. The Spikes shortstop chose to throw to second base for the force-out, but failed to get Thurber in-time, allowing Lucas to score.
Brooklyn pulled ahead in the seventh inning. Muno ignited Brooklyn’s second two-out rally all by himself by singling, stealing second, stealing third, and scoring on the play thanks to an errant throw by the catcher.
The Cyclones looked to build their 4-3 lead by loading the bases later in the seventh and again in the top of the eighth, but left the runners stranded both times.
The Spikes tied the game up in the bottom of the eighth and threatened to take over the lead, but were gunned down trying by the rightfielder, Thurber. State College successfully challenged Thurber’s arm early in the inning by scoring a runner from second, but the rightfielder got a shot at redemption. With two outs and a runner on second, Thurber fielded a line drive single and fired a one-hopper to home. Catcher Amauris Valdez fielded the throw and successfully blocked the plate to keep the Spikes from pulling ahead.
With tempers high and the ballgame tied at 4-4, J-Rod was drilled to lead off the top of the ninth. The benches cleared, but no ejections were made. After order was restored, the Cyclones put runners on second and third with a walk and a sac bunt. The plunking of Harrison then loaded the bases for the Cyclones, but did not draw a warning as the beaning was attributed to wildness. Travis Taijeron then wasted no time in making State College pay for their mistake. The San Diego native launched an opposite field grand slam into the right field bleachers to give Brooklyn an 8-4 lead.
Brooklyn added another run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Muno.
Trailing 9-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the Spikes managed to plate a run and put runners on first and second before the third out was recorded. However, Todd Weldon came on to face one batter and pick up his first save this season.
The Cyclones return home to MCU Park on Wednesday, June 27, at 7 p.m. The game will be the start of a three-game series against the Connecticut Tigers (16-20). Fans will be invited to run the bases postgame and take advantage of the Pay-One-Price deal. The Cyclones also expect to welcome their 3,000,000th fan to the ball park. Following the game, our three-millionth fan will have the chance to go down to the field where he or she will choose from 30 different envelopes with a chance to win one of three amazing prizes -- including $30,000! Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling 718-507-TIXX, visiting the MCU Park box office, or logging onto BrooklynCyclones.com.
-- Ryan Gilbert