The Cyclones’ quasi-miracle 2011 season ended with an exhilarating 1-0 loss to the hated Staten Island Yankees in the decisive Game 3 of their playoff series.
The Yankees will now play the Auburn Doubledays for the coveted New York-Penn League championship.
The Saturday night loss on the Rock was a mirror on the Cyclones’ season itself, with some stunning pitching and crisp fielding, but too many missed opportunities, including failing to score twice with runners on third and one out.
“We missed some opportunities, but we played our hearts out,” said Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly. “This was a 15-round split decision against the heavyweight champ. This wasn’t a knockdown. I’m not disappointed at all.”
But hundreds of Cyclone fans, who outnumbered Yankee fans at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, were sent back to the ferry in despair as the mini-Mets ultimately wasted onE of their best starting pitching performances and many scoring chances.
Neither team got a hit until Javier Rodriguez’s double in the fourth pit runners on second and third with no outs. But Yankees starter William Oliver struck out two of the next three, part of a 10 K, seven-inning tour de force.
But Cyclone starter Carlos Vasquez actually outdueled the gunslinger, not yielding a hit until a leadoff double in the fifth — before he struck out the next two batters and induced a fly ball to end the Yankees’ first and only threat until the disastrous seventh inning.
With Vasquez well above his pitch count, Donnelly summoned T.J. Chism, who promptly gave up a monstrous double to Tyler Austin and then an even-more-frightening triple to Rey Nunez that plated the game’s only run.
The Yankee victory kept the Baby Bombers just one step ahead of the Cyclones, as they were all year long. At one point, the Cyclones trailed the Yankees by nine and a half games in the McNamara Division — and making the playoffs even appeared in jeopardy.
But the Cyclones closed out the season with a bunch of series wins — including a three-game sweep of the Yankees, who ended up winning the division crown by just one-half game.
Wait ’til next year.