By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rich Donnelly never had a doubt about Kevin Plawecki.
"I think Kevin's getting in the groove. He's fine. That's the last thing I'm worred about, is him," the Cyclones' 65-year-old sage skipper insisted after watching the Mets' supplemental first-round pick in last month's draft get off to a less-than-impressive start to his professional career following a brilliant three-year run at Purdue University.
Plawecki, a Thurman Munson Award nominee as one of the best catchers in the nation this past season with the Boilermakers, made good on his manager's confidence in him Monday night in front of 4,572 fans at steamy MCU Park.
The 21-year-old backstop belted a game-tying solo homer leading off the bottom of the ninth inning and was hit by a pitch to spark the Cyclones' game-winning rally in the 11th as Brooklyn walked off with a dramatic 7-6 victory over visiting Hudson Valley.
The Baby Bums' fourth consecutive triumph elevated their McNamara Division-leading record to 11-4, giving them a two-game cushion over the second-place Renegades.
"It's been frustrating but it was great to finally help the team the way I did," admitted Plawecki, who is batting .171 with two homers and four RBIs in his first 10 games with Brooklyn.
The Cyclones appeared to be heading toward a tough loss after squandering an early 4-2 lead by surrendering three runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. But first baseman Jayce Boyd, making his Brooklyn debut, started the bottom of the eighth with a booming triple to center field and scored on Eudy Pina's groundout to shave the deficit to one.
Plawecki, who blasted 17 homers during his time at Purdue and connected for his first pro long ball on June 23 at Aberdeen, stepped to the plate to start the ninth with a chance to extend the game. He did so in impressive fashion, sending an offering from Hudson Valley reliever Marcus Jensen over the left-field wall to deadlock the contest at 6-6.
"I was just trying to get something going in the bottom of the ninth," said Plawecki, who took one for the team leading off the 11th before being replaced by pinch-runner Jonathan Clark later in the frame.
Clark eventually scored on Boyd's game-ending sacrifice fly as Brooklyn improved to 6-2 on Surf Avenue this summer.
"He's a true leader and I love him," Donnelly said of Plawecki, who was taken out for precautionary reasons and because Clark provided a faster runner at third. "I like the way he plays the game. He's a tough kid. He takes charge. I see why he was a supplemental (first-round) pick. He can catch. I like tough guys behind the plate."
Despite getting plunked, Plawecki expected to be fit and ready to go when the Cyclones host Williamsport for their July 4 game at 6 p.m. Brooklyn traveled to Hudson Valley Tuesday for the finale of its away-home-away three-game set with the Renegades.
Boyd went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, a run scored and two RBIs in his first game as a pro after helping Florida State reach the College World Series last month.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound infielder could wind up being Brooklyn's full-time first-bagger if Cole Frenzel, who is hitting a sizzling .408 during his second summer on Coney Island, gets promoted back to Class A Savannah, where he began the season before struggling and earning a return trip to Coney Island.
“I think I was more excited than nervous, but there was definitely a bit of tension," Boyd said of his first appearance at always-electric MCU Park. "I was getting antsy. I had to move all my stuff from Tallahassee [Fla. after the College World Series], but I finally got to slow down a bit and play some baseball.”
Boyd began his Brooklyn career with a pop out to first base in the second inning, doubled home Frenzel, who served as the DH on Monday, in the fourth, ripped a ground-rule double to right in the fifth and tripled before scoring the game-tying run in the eighth. He capped the stellar night with a fly ball to right in the 11th, sending Clark scurrying home with the winning run to spark a mob scene at home plate for the first-place 'Clones.
This, That and the Other Thing:
CF Brandon Nimmo finally delivered a big blast Saturday, ripping a grand slam for his first homer as a Cyclone during Brooklyn's 6-2 win over Aberdeen. The Mets' first-round pick in 2011 got his first day off Friday as manager Rich Donnelly opted to sit the 19-year-old prospect. “Yesterday I got to work on hitting, and that helps," Nimmo said of his extra instruction with hitting coach Bobby Malek. "I didn’t like [sitting out], but it certainly helped," admitted Nimmo, who is just hitting .184 but boasts a .365 on-base percentage due to his penchant for drawing walks. Donnelly gave Nimmo the word that he'd be sitting Friday by using a line his former boss with the Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates used to use. “[Current Tigers manager] Jim Leyland told me when he used to give [Barry] Bonds a day off, he used to say, ‘Even Frank Sinatra needs to clear his throat once in a while,'" Donnelly recalled. "That’s what I told Nimmo, except I used Elvis Presley because he had no idea who Frank Sinatra was." ... RHP Luis Mateo tossed six three-hit innings while striking out six without issuing a walk Sunday as Brooklyn blanked Hudson Valley, 3-0, for its league-leading third shutout of the season. Mateo, a 6-foot-3 right-hander from the Dominican Republic, improved to 3-0 with an 0.51 ERA in his first three starts for Brooklyn. He has 22 strikeouts against only two walks thus far.