TROY, NY — The Brooklyn Cyclones dropped the first game of the New York–Penn League championship series in punchless fashion last night to the hometown Tri-City Valley Cats, 5–2, sending the best-of-three series back to Brooklyn, where the Cyclones were 32-8 this season.
The Cyclones jumped on the board first, when the team’s leading home run hitter, Cory Vaughn, blasted a first-pitch fastball into deep left-center for a two-run dinger.
But the Cyclones’ bats managed only one more hit the rest of the game.
Tri-City’s broke the game open with a four-run fourth. Starter A.J. Pinera walked the leadoff hitter Ben Orloff, than gave up an RBI double to Austin Wates and an RBI single to Adam Bailey. A wild pitch, a walk and an error by second baseman J.B. Brown on a sure double-play ball led to another run.
The final run of the inning scored on a groundout.
Valley Cat starter David Martinez was nearly flawless after that first-inning homer to Vaughn, giving up just one more hit and striking out three in his five innings.
The Cats added an insurance run in the sixth on a solo shot by Marcus Nidiffer, and closer Jorge DeLeon pitched a no-hit eighth and ninth to get the save.
Cyclones skipper Wally Backman said he was disappointed that his team “showed up without much punch,” not getting a hit after the fourth.
“I would have liked to see more ‘rah-rah-rah’ out the guys, more standing on the top step than sitting on the bench,” he said.
But Backman added he would not use the four-hour bus ride back to the Cyclones’ Downtown Brooklyn dormitory to chew out his team.
“There’s not a whole lot to say at this point in a season,” he said. “The bottom line is that we were outpitched tonight. And we made a big error on a double-play ball. That’s the difference in this game.”
The series now pivots to MCU Park in Coney Island, where the Cyclones had an .800 winning percentage during the regular and post-season. For the Clones to win the championship, they’ll need to follow the pattern of their semi-final playoff series against the Jamestown Jammers, who also took the first game from the visiting Cyclones only to lose the next two games on the sands of Coney Island.
“Our backs have been to the wall before, but we turned it around against Jamestown,” Backman said. “I’m not worried.”
His counterpart, Jim Pankovits, also expressed little anxiety.
“[Winning tonight] certainly helped,” he said. “There’s a lot of things you can’t do when your hands are tied down one game, so I like our chances.”