By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
NILES — After his club commenced the campaign with a trio of 1-run games in Jamestown, N.Y., Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ skipper Rouglas Odor received some real relief — or perhaps that was Realini relief — Friday night.
Dustin Realini’s 2-run, eighth-inning home run afforded the Scrappers a 2-run insurance cushion in a 5-2 Mahoning Valley victory over the Williamsport Crosscutters before 6,450 fans at Eastwood Field.
The Scrappers’ slender 3-2 lead was the product of 1st-, 2nd- and 5th-inning singletons. But in a 1-out, 1-on situation, Realini ripped a Dustin Molleken curve ball over the left-center field wall.
“I knew it was kind of an RBI situation, and was looking at that first pitch for an off-speed pitch, and that’s what (Molleken) gave me,” related Realini, who only earlier in the day had passed his physical and been activated.
“Those two runs were big for us and made my job easier,” Odor opined. “We swung the bats better (Friday) night — we got 11 hits — and it’s the first time we got double digits. It was great to see the guys swinging the bats the way they did.”
Realini, Jason Denham, Matt McBride and Kelly Edmundson each stroked a pair of safeties. And the 11-hit offensive attack was complemented by a quartet of pitchers’ collective 12-strikeout performance that limited Williamsport (1-2) to just 4 hits.
“We have a great pitching staff,” Odor praised, particularly noting the first professional outing of right-hander Josh Tomlin.
During his 3-inning, 37-pitch no-hit stint Tomlin fanned 5 and did not issue a walk. He was relieved by Luis Valdez, who was credited with the win, while southpaw Chris Cooper also relieved, and righty Jason Schutt earned a save by retiring all four hitters he faced.
Texas Tech University product Tomlin, a 19th-round selection, admitted to some nervousness, but related he had no qualms in the 3-inning/55-pitch count imposed by Odor and pitching coach Ken Rowe.
“It’s just the nature of an athlete, of course you want to stay out there, but it’s not necessary to go out there and try to get hurt the first outing. It’s smart by coach Rowe to do that, that pitch-count, so people stay healthy all year long,” Tomlin said, while admitting he was relieved to get his pro debut behind him.
“Great! He was outstanding!” Odor offered of Tomlin. “I was talking to Kenny Rowe and (hitting coach) Henry Cruz, and (Tomlin) looks like (former Pittsburgh Pirates righty Doug) Drabek. His physique and his breaking ball is about the same. Hopefully he shows that he can do that consistently.”
The Scrappers (2-2) scratched out a singleton in the first frame on the first of a trio of ’Cutters’ errors, Denham’s single to right, and starter Stephen McFarland’s wild pitch. In the second stanza Evandy DeLeon walked, advanced on a fielder’s choice grounder, and scored when Adam Davis’ grounder was misplayed. In the fifth frame, Andy Lytle’s bouncer up the middle, Denham’s flare to left, and McBride’s RBI-single to center accounted for a 3-0 edge.
But the Crosscutters’ cut that deficit via a 2-run sixth stanza off Valdez on John Peabody’s single up the middle, a wild pitch, Angel Gonzalez’s RBI-single to right-center field, and Greg Picart’s double down the right-field line.
McFarland, after throwing 48 pitches in only two innings, was tagged with the loss, while righties Mike Crotta and Mollensen relieved.
Notes: Williamsport is managed by former Pittsburgh Pirates’ catcher Tom Prince, while former Pirates’ bullpen coach Bruce Tanner — son of legendary Buccos’ manager Chuck Tanner — now oversees the ’Cutters’ moundsmen. Tanner is a friend of Brookfield resident John Kushner. ... Realini’s home run was set up by Cirilo Cumberbatch’s leadoff single to left and DeLeon’s sacrifice bunt. ... Edmundson also doubled. ... the game was delayed 45 minutes at the outset while the grounds crew worked on the saturated field.
By Ed Farrell