Miners take twin bill from ValleyCats

Local Sports

AUGUSTA, NJ – Following three straight days of rainy weather in Northern New Jersey that resulted in multiple game postponements, the Tri-City ValleyCats (1-2) returned to action for a Memorial Day doubleheader Monday afternoon. The ‘Cats concluded both an abbreviated opening calendar month of play and season-opening series with a pair of losses at the hands of Can-Am Conference rivals Sussex County (2-1), dropping 2-0 and 3-1 seven-inning tilts to the Miners at Skylands Stadium. 

Game 1: Sussex County 2, Tri-City 0 (7)

The ‘Cats could not put their bats into action to begin their first doubleheader as members of the Frontier League, with the Miners holding a 6-2 advantage in hits and stranding five on the basepaths defensively. Tri-City left the bases loaded in the opening frame and had just one base-runner after the second inning, with third baseman Juan Silverio and shortstop Keaton Weisz each earning hits at the plate. 

The Miners got on the board in the home half of the second to take an early lead, with second baseman Trey Hair stealing home after opening the frame with a walk. The Miners played an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by shortstop Cito Culver that gave the game its final score. 

Making his first professional appearance since August 2019 while a member of the Lansing Lugnuts, Tri-City’s Josh Hiatt (0-1) was tagged with the loss, surrendering a pair of earned runs on four hits in four innings, while walking and striking out four batters each. Right-hander Jake Dexter also made his season debut, walking two and striking out one in a pair of relief innings. Sussex County’s Billy Layne Jr. (1-0) struck out six and walked three while allowing just two hits in the shutout win over five innings, while Gavin Sonnier earned the save while facing the minimum over two innings. 

Game 2: Sussex County 3, Tri-City 1 (7)

Tri-City found the scoreboard first, but could not hold on to the lead and earn the split in its third of 31 scheduled meetings with the Miners this season. With the two squads combining for just six hits during a speedy one hour and 48-minute nightcap, right fielder Jake Barbee drew a bases-loaded walk to allow left fielder Steven Figueroa to put the ‘Cats on top. 

Despite both starting pitchers working into the fifth, It was the Miners who found fortune offensively, with Culver putting together a pair of scoring plays offensively that led to a hard-luck loss for ValleyCats starter Samuel Perez on the mound. Culver tied the game in the home half of the fifth with a sacrifice fly, while Sussex County’s Daniel Herrera scored on a wild pitch during the following at-bat. Culver would reach on an error during the following inning to allow an insurance run to come home in the form of Hair. 

Perez (1-1) took the loss in four and two-thirds innings, allowing a pair of runs on three hits while striking out two. Right-hander Eddie Tavarez struck out two and walked three while allowing an unearned run over the final one and one-third innings during his debut for Tri-City. Sussex County’s Alexander Vargas (1-0) earned the win while allowing one run off two hits and striking out three in five innings, while Jalen Miller Sr. struck out two to record his first save of the year over one inning. Silverio, first baseman Francis Martinez, and recently activated ValleyCats veteran Oscar Campos each recorded a hit in the loss. 

Following the conclusion of the abbreviated three-game season-opening series, Tri-City will continue an eight-day road trip with a three-game midweek series at the New York Boulders. The Inaugural tilt between the ‘Cats closest geographical foe in the Frontier League is set for Tuesday, June 1 at 6:30 PM in Pomona, New York. 

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