Valley Cats Pounce on ‘Clones
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Sunday, July 22, 2007

BROOKLYN, NY - If there was ever a time when the Brooklyn Cyclones thought that their name was a perfect fit, tonight was that night.

With 9,006 fans in attendance tonight at Keyspan, Brooklyn and Tri-City treated their paying audience to a sloppily-played, topsy-turvy slugfest, getting 14 runs and 19 hits of combined offense and six errors to boot, with the Valley Cats eventually pouncing their way to an 8-6 win.

Despite giving up five runs on four hits in only 1.2 innings of work, Cyclones starter Eric Niesen [ 0.87 ERA in two starts prior to tonight’s game] got all of his outs via the strikeout, before being replaced by Grady Hinchman with two outs in the second.

Fortunately for the Mets Single-A affiliate, Hinchman would get the first batter he faced to groundout and would keep the score at 5-0. The next half inning, the Cyclones would produce some offense, but it wouldn’t be enough to tie the game. Loading the bases with no outs, Brooklyn would score three runs after a Joaquin Rodriguez fielder’s choice, a Matt Bouchard RBI ground out and a Micah Schilling RBI single, effectively clearing the bases and pulling themselves within two runs with the game still in the early stages.

“We played hard,” said Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo. “They came out and scored five runs and we came back and scored three. We really battled out there tonight, but sometimes you have to give the other team credit. They played well tonight.”

Continuing to get back in the game in the third, the Cyclones would score a run after Raul Reyes reached on an error with Jason Jacobs on third, pulling Brooklyn within one run of Tri-City. However, the game would get even crazier from that point on, as Hinchman would give up three hits and a run after getting himself into a second and third jam with no outs. When the dust was settled, the Valley Cats were still ahead of Brooklyn 6-4.

However, like they have so many other times this season at home, the ‘Clones persevered and after getting runners on second and third in the fourth for Will Vogl, Tri-City starter Robert Leonhardt would throw a wild pitch that would score Bouchard, pulling the Mets Single-A affiliate within one with only one out. After Vogl eventually walked, Tri-City would make a pitching change and bring in Bryan Hallberg, who would fan Jacobs and get Chris Fournier to pop out, keeping the score at 6-5.

Despite the Cyclones resilient bats, Hinchman would then run into trouble in the sixth, giving up a one-out solo dinger, courtesy of Valley Cats first baseman Alberto Cruz, which stretched the Tri-City lead to 7-5. With the team using up most of their relievers the past few days, Hinchman was stuck in the game and forced to clean up his own mess and would respond marvelously, striking out the next two batters to end the inning and keep his team in the game.

“We had some guys that were being used a lot and they needed me to come in and pitch a few innings,” said Hinchman. “I thought I did a pretty good job out there.”

Just when things looked like they were going to settle down in the bottom of the sixth, with the score still deadlocked at 7-5, Schilling drew a lead off walk and after a failed pickoff attempt [the V-Cats fourth error of the game] from Hallberg, Schilling wound up on third and scored after an Eigsti RBI single, putting the ‘Clones within one run for the third time of the evening.

“I felt good out there tonight,” said Eigsti, who had two RBI on the night. “It would have been even better if we came out with a win though.”

Josh Appell would come into the game in the seventh for the Cyclones, after Hinchman pitched 4.1 innings and gave up two runs. Continuing to stifle the opposition with a combination of his fastball and slider, Appell coasted through the seventh, but would surrender a bomb off the bat of Cruz, his second big fly of the night, stretching the Tri-City lead to 8-6.

While Appell would keep up his end of the bargain the rest of the game, keeping the game at 8-6, the Cyclones wouldn’t be able to produce any offense off of a combination of Hallberg and Tri-City closer Carlos Ladeuth, dropping the hammer on an ugly 8-6 loss.

Falling for the second time in as many games, Brooklyn has now endured their first losing streak of the season. While the team still has a four and a half game lead in the McNamara division over the Staten Island Yankees, they understand that in order to stay on top, they have to make less mistakes on the field and find the same level of consistency that got them there in the first place.

“We made a lot of mistakes and tomorrow we’re going to correct them,” said Hinchman. “Tomorrow we’ll come out and play the way we have to.”