Eleven games into the season, the Williamsport Crosscutters have already experienced three sudden death tiebreakers. The latest was a 5-4 loss to Trenton, and the first loss at home of the year, to start a three-game home series with the Thunder at Bowman Field on Tuesday.
On Kyler Patterson’s first pitch, designated first base runner Caleb McNeeley was promptly picked off attempting to steal second. State College had used the same tactic in the past, and with a 2-1 record in sudden death now, Williamsport’s field has kept a keen eye on the steal at second.
“It’s pretty standard. The guys might be on the move, gotta be ready to throw,” Crosscutters manager Jesse Litsch said. “We gotta hold baserunners probably a little bit better, but at that point in time, we were able to get that guy out at second and gotta pitch with outs at that point.”
EJ Esposito doubled and a dropped third strike advanced him to third base before Tate Ballestro brought him in with a game-winning base hit.
A whole new team played at Bowman. Ahead of the game, Williamsport (6-5) made massive roster changes as temp deals ran up and players checked in from their college seasons. A total of 18 players left while 16 arrived.
Of the new arrivals, reigning team MVP Lance Logsdon, Isaac Nunez and Hogan McIntosh are the three members of the team who played for Williamsport last summer. Taiga Yamane was the fourth returner and was released.
“Obviously it sucks seeing guys go and the new guys coming in, it’s cool,” Litsch said. “But having to release guys is not necessarily the easiest thing, but that’s what this league is about and how they go about things. But moving forward, this is pretty much what we got and we’ll try and make the best of it.”
In his first game back, McIntosh snapped a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth. After hitting a one-out double right to the point of the center wall, he took third on a wild pitch and was forced in on a groundout by Eddie Niemann.
“He had missed on the breaker down and was just kinda sitting on a fastball the next pitch,” McIntosh said. “Figured he’d come back with a heater 1-0 so (I) saw it up and got a good swing on it and doubled. Then just a wild pitch and a good swing to get me in.”
After McIntosh’s run to reclaim the lead, Colby Backus tied the game once again with a base hit to left field for an RBI. McIntosh found himself batting fourth in the lineup and finished 1 for 2 with his double and a walk.
Crosscutters third baseman Travis Holt throws to first base for a out at first base in the first inning.
“It was fun. I’m glad to see what I was coming back to for sure,” McIntosh said. “Fun fans, fun crowd. It’s a good place to be.”
Andrew Cossetti made a base hit to right field to drive in the leadoff man from third, giving Trenton (6-5) a one-run lead in the first inning.
Williamsport poured on three runs in the second inning in response. After a ground out on the very first pitch of the frame, back-to-back walks were made and those runners then advanced on a fielder’s choice to first base.
Alan Shibley smacked a double to the left wall to drive them in and take the lead. Back at the top of the order, Matthew Etzel added another RBI before a grounder pulled the Thunder out of the inning.
“The new guys were trying to get to know ’em and some guys stepped up and the other guys will be in there tomorrow,” Litsch said. “That’s what this league’s about and we try and see what we got moving forward and kinda make the adjustments as needed.”
Aaron Roberts, a 2019 Boston Red Sox selection, made his debut start on the mound for the Crosscutters. He pitched the first two innings and reached 97 mph on his fastball. He finished with a pair of strikeouts, one hit and an ERA of 4.50.
“It was definitely good. He was nervous early but he settled in very nicely and did what we asked of him,” Litsch said on Robert’s debut. “He’ll be back in soon, probably whenever his next start is. Probably Monday I think.”
The Thunder plated two runs to tie the game in the third inning. Jovani Wiggs cut Trenton’s deficit to one run after coming home on a wild pitch. With two outs, three straight walks — the second to load the bases — forced in the tying run.
The Thunder made four hits to the Crosscutters’ three. Williamsport had one error.
“I like it so far. All the guys are good dudes,” McIntosh said on his return to Williamsport. “It’s been good so far. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer.”