TROY, NY (NEWS10) – The Tri-City ValleyCats (53-39) scored more runs on Thursday (four) than they had in their previous three games (three), but ultimately fell 5-4 to the Sussex County Miners (52-40) at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. The ValleyCats were swept for only the second time all year, which has both occurred against Sussex County.

However, Tri-City’s magic number to clinch its first playoff berth since 2018 is down to three after the Québec Capitales swept the New York Boulders on Thursday. The ‘Cats hold a one-game lead in the standings for the second wild card spot in the Frontier League East Division over both the Boulders and the Miners.

Tri-City opened the scoring in the second. Jakob Goldfarb doubled off Tyler Thornton. Oscar Campos singled Goldfarb to third. Tanner Smith brought in Goldfarb with a single to give the ValleyCats a 1-0 lead.

Goldfarb picked up his second hit of the day in the sixth with a single. Aaron Altherr walked, and Campos had an infield single. Smith delivered an RBI knock to provide the ValleyCats with a 2-0 advantage.

Sussex County rallied in the seventh. Anthony Gomez reached on an error from Pavin Parks. Edwin Mateo then worked a walk off Jhon Vargas. Willie Escala singled in a run, and Vargas exited the game. Afterward, Juan Santana had an RBI single off Blake Workman to tie the game, 2-2.

Vargas received a no-decision. He hurled 6.1 innings, yielding two unearned runs on seven hits, walking one, and striking out seven on 106 pitches.

Thornton was also handed a no-decision. He tossed seven frames, giving up two runs on seven hits, walking one, and striking out five.

Tri-City flexed its muscles in the eighth. Altherr ripped a line drive home run over the right field fence against Tyler Luneke. It was his 17th long ball of the year, tying Carson McCusker for the team lead. Two batters later, Smith followed up with a solo shot of his own. Smith’s second professional round-tripper pulled the ValleyCats ahead, 4-2.

Gomez led off the ninth with a double off Parks, and Mateo walked. Escala laid down a sac bunt, and both runners moved up 90 feet. Anu was intentionally walked, and Santana drove in a pair with a single. Gavin Stupienski was also intentionally walked, and Jason Agresti brought in Anu with a single to put Sussex County on top, 5-4. Johnny Hipsman flew out into an inning-ending double play, as Jaxon Hallmark found Campos at the plate for the second straight day with a perfect relay throw.

Robbie Hitt walked Cito Culver in the bottom of the ninth. Hallmark moved Culver to second with a bunt before Hitt retired the next two batters for his 13th save of the year.

Luneke (2-2) earned the win. He threw an inning, allowing two runs on two hits, walking one, and striking out two.

Parks (1-2) received the loss in his second blown save of the year. He went 0.2 innings, yielding three runs on three hits, and walked three.

Tri-City begins its final series of the 2023 regular season in Canada against the Trois-Rivières Aigles  tomorrow, Friday, September 1. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM.