TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Tri-City ValleyCats manager Pete Incaviglia said Tuesday his team had to win out in the regular season to reach the playoffs. Wednesday Tri-City took two steps towards that goal, sweeping a thrilling doubleheader with the Sussex County Miners.
The Cats won both games in comeback fashion, taking game one 7-3, and completing a comeback victory in extra innings of game two; 9-6 was the final.
Game one was closer than the final score would indicate. Tri-City maintained a 2-0 lead heading into the top of the fifth inning after a third-inning Denis Phipps solo home run – his league-leading 33rd long ball of the year – and a Joe Campagna sacrifice fly in the fourth frame. Starting pitcher Ryan Williamson impressed on the bump, tossing four scoreless innings, and striking out eight.
But the ValleyCats’ bullpen could not hold the lead for Williamson. With the bases loaded in the fifth, Miners third baseman Juan Silverio promptly cleared them with a three-run double, giving Sussex County a 3-2 edge.
Tri-City would not be denied, though. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Cats shortstop Cito Culver brought a run in with a ringing double down the right field line to knot the game up at three.
Next batter was Brantley Bell, and Bell continued his quest for Frontier League most valuable player by mashing a three-run home run deep to left field to give Tri-City the 6-3 advantage.
After ValleyCats third baseman Pavin Parks followed Bell and tacked on an insurance run with a solo shot, upping the Cats lead to four runs, relief pitcher Trey Cochran-Gill came on to close out the game for Tri-City.
Cochran-Gill didn’t make it easy for ValleyCats fans in the top of the seventh inning; after loading the bases, the right hander faced Sussex County’s Alex Toral with two outs, with Toral posing as the potential tying run.
Toral hammered a 2-2 Cochran-Gill fastball to the warning track in center field, but Jesus Lujano leapt to make a spectacular catch, securing the third out and the 7-3 victory for Tri-City.
After trailing 6-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning in game two, it appeared the ValleyCats were set up for a doubleheader split.
But the Cats chipped away at the deficit, scoring one run in the bottom of the fourth, and one in the bottom of the fifth inning. However, they still faced a steep, uphill battle as they came to bat in the last half of the seventh inning, trailing 6-2.
Down to their final out, Tri-City began forging their comeback. Catcher Austin Bernard cut the deficit to three with an RBI single that scored right fielder Carson McCusker.
Cito Culver then stepped up to the dish with two men on base, and a chance to tie the game; he did just that, launching a three-run homer to left, and all of a sudden it was a 6-6 ballgame.
Reliever Olbis Parra breezed through a scoreless top half of the eighth inning, and set up the ValleyCats for a walk-off opportunity in the bottom of the frame.
Carson McCusker saw that opportunity with runners on third and first, and just one out in the inning. With one swing of the bet, McCusker quite possibly kept Tri-City’s playoff hopes alive by blasting a three-run shot over the wall in center field, completing the comeback, and topping Sussex County 9-6.
The ValleyCats now sit 1.5 games back of third place with four games remaining on their regular season schedule. They conclude their three-game series with the Miners Thursday evening; first pitch is set for 6:30.