It was hockey jersey night at MCU Park in Coney Island Wednesday evening, and the Brooklyn Cyclones waited until well into the third period – also known as the bottom of the eighth inning – to wake up from a game-long drought and earn a 3-1 victory over the Hudson Valley Renegades.
The win moves the Cyclones to 27-26 and just one game behind the McNamara Division-leading Aberdeen Ironbirds, who defeated the Staten Island Yankees Wednesday.
With Jeff Wilpon in the house, the Cyclones got off to an extremely slow start offensively. Shortstop Gavin Cecchini beat out an infield single in the first inning, but the Cyclones did not have another hit until the bottom of the eighth.
Brooklyn pounded out a season-high 16 hits in Sunday’s win over the State College Spikes in the last game before the All-Star break, but the team managed just four hits in this one.
Cecchini’s single extended his hitting streak to 12 games – the longest hitting streak in the New York-Penn League. The Cyclones’ all-time record for a hitting streak is 17 games by Lucas Duda in 2007.
“I’m not really worried about the hit streak,” Cecchini said. “I’m just taking good swings, getting my pitch and helping the team win. That’s all the matters.”
Lefty Dario Alvarez took the hill for the Cyclones and was very effective over his six innings of work trying to avoid a third straight loss. However, the one unearned run he allowed in the top of the fourth inning looked liked it would hold up until the Cyclones rallied late.
In that inning, Renegades’ All-Star catcher Oscar Hernandez skied a pop-up right out in front of home plate. Several Cyclones converged, but a lack of communication forced third baseman Juan Gamboa into a dive.
The ball skimmed off Gamboa’s glove and trickled up the first-base line, allowing Hernandez to advance to second. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Renegades’ left fielder Granden Goetzman.
The Cyclones couldn’t muster any sort of offensive attack until the bottom of the eighth, when center fielder Patrick Biondi led off the frame with a bloop single to left. Second baseman Ismael Tijerina laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, but Renegades’ first baseman Ben Kline could not handle the throw and everybody was safe.
In an obvious bunt situation with Cecchini at the plate, Renegades’ pitcher Rick Teasley errantly threw a pick-off throw to first base, allowing both runners to advance. With two strikes on him, Cecchini lined a change-up to center field for the game-tying sacrifice fly.
“Whenever you have two strikes and runners in scoring position, you at least want to put the ball in play, and that’s what we did tonight,” Cecchini said. “We made them play, and we came out with a win.”
“That was a heck of an at-bat…two strikes…if he (Cecchini) strikes out there, we’re in trouble,” Cyclones’ manager Rich Donnelly said. “He hit the ball solid and drove in the tying run. That was a great at-bat by a young kid.”
After an intentional walk to first baseman Alex Sanchez and a single by right fielder James Roche loaded the bases, a Teasley wild pitch gave Brooklyn the lead. Designated hitter Matt Oberste plated the third run with an RBI single that caromed off the third base bag.
Righty Akeel Morris picked up the win for the Cyclones in relief. He’s now 3-0 on the year and has shown signs of dominance. He allowed no hits and only one walk in three scoreless innings, and he’s thrived all season in a long relief role.
“As long as I’m pitching good, that’s all I want to do,” Morris said. “One of the biggest things I’ve tried to do this year is to be more aggressive.”
“He’s (Morris) been pretty darn good all year,” Donnelly said. “He has two plus strikeout pitches. He has a 93-94 fastball, and he has a really good change-up. Sometimes that light bulb goes on and off they go. He has a chance to go…93-94 out here, in the big leagues that will work too. Ask Matt Harvey.”
The Cyclones now have 22 games left this season, and it’s gearing up to be a tight race to finish. The team’s hitting has been inconsistent all summer, but if Brooklyn can continue its string of solid pitching performances, the team will be in the mix the entire way down the stretch.
The Cyclones are back in action Thursday night, with Dawrin Frias getting the start in Hudson Valley at 7:05 p.m.
Click here to view the complete box score from this game.