"I told the team before the playoffs started that this series would be a pitchers duel" said Cyclones manager Tony Tijerina after Game 1 of the series.
Ahead 2-0 in the game on a two run home run by Tyler Davidson, the Cyclones handed the ball over to Eddy Camacho who threw two innings of scoreless relief the night before. Camacho however, was not effective at all throwing 14 of his 23 pitches for balls. Camacho allowed a walk to Jonny Ash to lead off the 8th inning and after pinch hitter Mitch Einertson struck out, the leagues leading hitter in Ben Zobrist stepped to the plate. Zobrist was late fouling off a 3-2 pitch that rolled out of the glove of catcher Aaron Hathaway, however made solid contact a pitch later when he hit a two run home run for the first two runs of the games and of the series for the Tri-City Valley Cats. Celso Rondon relieved Camacho an at bat later and retired the last two hitters of the inning.
Rondon however would not fair any better in the ninth inning. After striking out Kevin Vital, catcher Lou Santangelo singled to right center. Rondon would next get Drew Sutton to strike out for what ended up being the final out the Cyclones would record. Rondon walked Ash to put runners on first and second and Mitch Einertson who pinch hit the inning before hit a line drive just over the head of Dante Brinkley to score Einertson and give the Valley Cats another day to live for.
The turning point of the game came in the top of the seventh inning when ‘Cats closer Rodrigo Escobar came in the game in relief of Raymar Diaz. Escobar would allow just two hits while striking out four in his three inning of work and retired the last 7 of 8 batters he faced.
The Cyclones combined to strike out 15 times while walking just twice. This was the third time this season the Cyclones struck out 15 times and the second time they have done it facing this Tri-City team.
Losing a lead late in the game is a rarity for the Cyclones who were 38-3 entering the game when leading after 7 innings.
Michael Devaney started the game for the Cyclones however was not himself. Devaney lasted just 3 1-3 innings allowing three hits and three walks.
The lone bright spot of the Cyclones pitching staff was newcomer Blake Eager who joined the team from the Gulf Coast League when their season finished. Eager pitched just 3.1 innings in the regular season for the Cyclones, however Tijerina had enough confidence in him to throw him in a big pressure situation.
Eager pitched 3 2-3 scoreless innings allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out three while retiring the last 8 batters he faced.
The final game of the three game series is scheduled for Wednesday night, with first pitch being at 7:00 pm. There is heavy rainfall expected in the area for Wednesday and into Thursday leaving the completion of the semi-final series in limbo. The Mahoning Valley Scrappers advanced to the New York Penn League Championship Series with their 7-3 victory over the Auburn Doubledays Tuesday night. The winner of Wednesday's game will have home field advantage in the NYPL Championship Series. The series will begin Friday at Mahoning Valley with games two and three of the series scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Those plan however could be pushed back if rain plays a factor in the completion of the Brooklyn and Tri-City series. Mike Swindell (4-1 2.69) will be on the mound for the Brooklyn Cyclones opposing Andrew Alvarado (4-3 3.58).
As for Swindell pitching the deciding game of this series Tijerina feels the team is in good hands.
"I feel comfortable with any of these three pitchers we are throwing out" Tijerina said. "We are in a good position."
"I think we have a good shot at winning" Swindell before the playoffs starter. "I am glad to be out there pitching and feel comfortable in knowing if I make the pitches I know I can, I will be successful."
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