Short-rest ‘Cat hurler ices Clones

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A superb and gutsy performance by Tri-city Valley Cats right-hander Ronnie Martinez landed the knock-out punch to the Brooklyn Cyclones season, leading the Cats to a 6-1 victory in the semi-finals of the New York-Penn League playoffs on Sept. 10.

Martinez was 11-2 during the regular season as he led the New York-Penn League in wins, and he had an ERA of only 1.96.

He started the opening game of the series in Brooklyn against the Cyclones on Sept. 6, losing that game, but after a Valleycat victory in Troy on Sept. 7 and two rainouts, he started again on three days’ rest, now a rarity for pitchers, especially pitchers in the minor leagues.

Using excellent control, Martinez got ahead in the count against almost every Brooklyn batter, and then he worked the outside of the plate.

In the first inning, Martinez retired the Cyclones leadoff hitter, Corey Coles, on a fly to left and then struck out the next two Brooklyn hitters, Matt Fisher and Dante Brinkley.

After Tri-City failed to score against Cyclones starter Joe Williams, Martinez blanked Brooklyn in the second inning, although he did allow a one-out single to Ambiorix Concepcion followed by a walk to Jim Burt.

Tri-City scored three runs in the second. With one out, Francisco Caraballo singled through the right side and then Einertson homered. When Lou Santangelo later hit a solo homer with two outs, Tri-City had a 3-0 lead.

Martinez continued to shut down the Cyclones, and the game featured no further scoring until the fifth inning.

Jim Burt led off the inning with an infield single and Aaron Hathaway singled to right-center, advancing Burt to third. Psomas grounded into a double play, scoring Burt.

Going into the bottom of the sixth, Tri-City held a 3-1 lead when Gabe Hernandez came in to start the inning in relief of Williams.

With two outs, Ben Zobrist struck out swinging but reached first base on what was ruled a wild pitch. Then Mario Garza doubled to left center, scoring Zobrist.

The Valley Cats scored two more runs against Hernandez in the seventh to take a 6-1 lead.

Martinez threw eight innings before he was replaced by Chad Reineke to start the ninth. Reineke walked the first two Brooklyn batters, Brinkley and Tyler Davidson, before Tri-City brought in ace closer Rodrigo Escobar, who induced Concepcion to ground out, advancing the runners. Burt then lined into a double play, as Davidson was doubled off second base.

That ended the game and concluded the Cyclones’ fourth season, one in which they were the league’s McNamara Division champions for the third time.

Martinez had pitched eight innings and allowed one run on five hits. He struck out 10 and walked only one.

After the game, Brooks manager Tony Tijerina discussed the pitching performance of Martinez.

“I’m amazed that he could pitch five innings against us on Monday and come back and throw eight [innings] today on three days rest,” noted the Cyclones skipper. “Hats off to him. He threw all his pitches and kept us off balance.”

The Cyclones had been in Troy for the better part of four days, and they had now suffered a season-ending defeat. What would Tijerina tell the players after the game?

“I’m going to tell them I know everybody’s disappointed, that it hurts to lose and that’s normal,” he said. “They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do all year and their goal was to be better than the day they got here and I feel we’ve accomplished that [goal] with almost the entire roster.

“I’m proud of the way they fought all year,” the skipper added.

Soon it was back to the bus for the trip back to the hotel for one more night in the Troy area.

In the morning, the team would be back in Brooklyn and, soon after, the players and coaching staff would be heading for homes near and far.

Some of the players will undoubtedly return to Brooklyn at some point next season. But the bulk of the team will be brand new.

It will be about 265 days until the Cyclones’ 2005 season opens.

But who’s counting?

September 25 , 2004 issue  

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