Crushing extra-innings loss for Clones at home

Cyclones topple hated Yanks in opening day win

Tri-City ValleyCats 4
Cyclones 3

Aug. 23 at MCU Park

The Tri-City ValleyCats squeaked past the Cyclones in an intense extra-innings bout that capped off a three-game home stand against the league-leading team.

The ValleyCats posted a run in the first when first baseman Jesse Wierzbicki belted one into center, driving in right fielder Preston Tucker. Wierzbicki managed to make it to third on the blast and tried to it into an inside-the-park home run, but the Clones tagged him out at the plate.

Brooklyn tied the game in the second frame as center fielder Brandon Nimmo whacked an RBI line drive off Tri-City starter Brian Holmes, sending second baseman Jeff Reynolds home. The Mini-Mets edged ahead in the fifth inning, after shortstop Philip Evans slapped a grounder to right field for a single, then advanced to second when designated hitter Kevin Plawecki drew a walk. A grounder to the hot corner off the bat of left fielder Julio Concepcion allowed Evans to touch the plate.

But the ValleyCats came back in the ninth, as Wierzbicki hit a ground ball single off Coney reliever John Mincone. The first baseman advanced to second on a ground out by designated hitter Tyler Heineman, and took third on a wild pitch by Mincone. Wierzbicki then crossed the plate on an RBI grounder from catcher M.P. Cokinos. The Clones failed to produce a run in their turn at the plate, forcing the game into extra innings.

Both teams failed to put up a run in the 10th, but in the 11th frame Brooklyn hurler Beck Wheeler gave up a single to Tucker — then surrendered a homer over the left field fence to Wierzbicki, giving the ValleyCats a two-run lead.

The Clones tried to rally in the bottom half of the frame after Troy righty Travis Ballew gave up back-to-back singles to catcher Nelfi Zapata and Jeff Reynolds. Right fielder Eudy Pina grounded out, but the runners moved into scoring position. With left-handed slugger Brandon Nimmo coming to bat, ValleyCats manager Stubby Clapp yanked Ballew for southpaw Scott Zuloaga. Nimmo grounded out, but let Zapata score — leaving Brooklyn down by one. Clapp went to the bullpen again, switching Zuloaga for righty John Neely before right-handed third baseman Dimas Ponce came to the plate. The strategy worked, as Neely fanned the Panamanian prospect, ending the game.

The pride of Coney Island fell to five games out of first in the McNamara division of the NY–Penn League, behind the Hudson Valley Renegades. They now lead the Wild Card Race by just three games over the Batavia Muckdogs..

The Cyclones are home again at MCU Park [1904 Surf Ave. at W. 17th Street in Coney Island, (718) 449–8497, www.brooklyncyclones.com] tomorrow at 6 pm as they take on the hated Staten Island Yankees.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.