Chandler Avant’s bunt single combined with a throwing error from Lake Monsters third baseman Jonah Bride brought home two runs as the Cyclones rallied from a 1–0 deficit to beat Vermont in extra innings.
The teams were scoreless for nine innings before Vermont got on the board in the top of the 10th thanks to a dumb new rule that puts a player on second base to start an inning, as if the game is being played between sewer caps on 82nd Street between 16th and 17th avenues in Bensonhurst.
Nick Osborne’s double off Andrew Mitchell to begin the frame scored the automatic runner, putting the Monsters on top 1–0. But Osborne couldn’t score on Jose Rivas single to center, and Mitchell got out of the jam without any further damage, setting the stage for the dramatic bottom of the 10th.
With Anthony Dirocie automatically on second, Nick Meyer reached on Lake Monster third baseman Jonah Bride’s first error of the inning, when he failed to come up with a grounder off the Cyclone’s bat. Avant’s bunt single was clean, but instead of just holding the ball, Bride threw wildly to first, and the Cyclones’s faithful fans — some 4,004 on hand this hot August night — went wild.
As the ball sailed past Avant, he headed toward the next bag, not even realizing his team had won the game on a ball that didn’t even leave the infield, he said.
“I was just thinking ‘get to second’ and once I saw both runs scored, it was a really good feeling,” Avant said after the game.
Clones starter Josh Walker threw five innings, striking out four and allowing three hits, before Tylor Megill took the mound in the sixth and pitched for four innings, striking out eight and allowing only one hit. Mitchell earned the win after coming on in the tenth and giving up the Lake Monsters’s lone run.
With the win, Brooklyn is tied with the Auburn Doubledays for first place in the wild card standings — a nice spot to be in, according to Avant, because the Cyclones have not made the playoffs in god knows how long.
“It’s a great feeling, every game means a lot to us, so we got to win as many as we can, so to get one more under our belt is a good feeling,” Avant said.
Despite the win, skipper Edgardo Alfonzo said he is no fan of the dumb new extra-inning rule, which the league put in place at the behest of Major League Baseball to study ways to avoid marathon extra-innings games.
“You don’t change the game,” Alfonzo said. “I think they should keep the game the way it is.”
Avant however, said he is in favor of it.
“It just makes the games quicker, you have a faster outcome,” he said. “It’s new to me but I’m getting used to it.”
Changing the rules to make baseball games playable is nothing new. “Invisible runners” have for years been used across Brooklyn’s schoolyards during stickball games with as few as two players. Such games don’t include bases, with imagined runners advancing based on “automatics” — singles, doubles, triples, or home runs determined by how far a ball is hit. Ground balls past the pitcher count as a single; fly balls or line drives beyond a certain marker in the outfield are a double, a ball hit off the fence on a fly is a triple; and, of course, anything over the fence a home run. Invisible runners are only allowed to advance the amount of bases the hitter is granted, thus a single with a runner on second does not score a run, as it might likely do in a baseball game.
Sandlot games from days of yore had their own grounds rules as well, sometimes dependent on the number of players available on a given day. With an odd number of players, a “pinch hitter” — who hits for both teams — would often be introduced, a plan that would inevitably lead to fights when his performance for one team didn’t match that for the other. And if, for instance, there weren’t enough players to field all the positions, teams would agree to only play one side of the field, with hits headed in the other direction considered automatic outs.
Former Yankee great Don Mattingly famously said he developed his hitting style — serving the ball to left-center field, or “going the other way” for a left-handed hitter in baseball parlance — thanks to a big tree in right field in front of his house. Playing Wiffle ball with his brothers as a kid on the homestead in Evansville, Indiana, winning the game was achieved by avoiding the tree in right and instead hitting the ball over the house in left — another example of a rules change because of the surroundings.
Still, the new rule is dumb, according to experts.
“Sure, most people award a pot of money to the player who lands on Free Parking, but that doesn’t make it right,” said Gersh Kuntzman, the dean of Cyclones reporters and a man who refuses to allow his 11-year-old to win at Monopoly. “In baseball, as in life, you have to earn everything.”