TROY, N.Y. – Amidst the excitement surrounding pitcher Mark Appel's professional debut, it may be easy to overlook the ValleyCats' July slump.
After going 11-3 in June, the Cats are off to a rough 2-5 start this month and it appeared in the early stages of Monday's game that the struggle would continue along that same path until third baseman Ryan Dineen earned his first home run of the season to lift the team to victory.
After a competition wrought with wasted scoring opportunities and costly base running misreads, it appeared as though the Aberdeen IronBirds would come out victorious before Dineen set his team up for a 2-1 walk-off win in the 12th, improving their record to 14-8 for the season.
Since the Cats' leading RBI man, Dan Gulbransen was called up to the Houston Astros, the team's struggles at the plate have been apparent, losing four of the last five games.
In response to the recent downturn, Ed Romero, Tri-City ValleyCats manager, called a closed-door meeting Monday. He said he addressed the fact that it's natural to lay back a little after such a hot start, but reminded the team that it no longer had that luxury. The team is now just one game up in the division.
Heading into Monday's match-up is wasn't immediately apparent whether or not the ValleyCats has heeded Romero's warning, as the team remained scoreless early.
After earning the win, Romero said he hoped Dineen's big hit down the line would spark the team back into the way it had been performing at the start of the season.
Cats' second baseman Tony Kemp raked in one of his four singles for the night at the bottom of the fourth, helping to give the Cats the lead on a sacrifice fly by right fielder Michael Martinez.
The IronBirds had runners on the corners with one out in the sixth when right fielder Manny Hernandez singled in a game-tying run.
Though the Cats' had runners in scoring position in both the eighth and the ninth, the team failed to produce, sending the teams into extra innings 1-1.
Richard Rodriguez had a solid three innings of relief for the Cats, giving up just one hit, no runs and recording eight strikeouts.
Dineen, the hero of this game, then stepped up with his walk-off homer to snap the Cats's two-game losing streak ahead of Tuesday's rematch against Aberdeen. At the 11 a.m. face-off Appel will take the mound for his second start since joining the Cats team.