Diehl delivers as Cyclones beat Tri-City
Twelfth-Inning Triple Gives Brooklyn Dramatic 3-2 Victory
“Saved by the Bell Night” at MCU Park turned into “Please Save Our Bullpen Night” for Tom Gamboa.
Fortunately for the second-year Brooklyn manager, and the 7,876 fans gathered at MCU Park for the special promotional event Wednesday, Jeff Diehl was in position to send everyone home happy and help Gamboa avoid using his lone remaining reliever.
Diehl came through with a game-winning RBI triple in the bottom of the 12th inning as Brooklyn improved to 2-0 in extra-inning games on the young season with a heart-stopping 2-1 triumph over visiting Tri-City on Coney Island.
“We’ve had two extra-inning games, we’ve won both,” Gamboa said, referring back to Brooklyn’s 3-2, 12-inning triumph over Staten Island at Richmond County Bank Ballpark last Friday in the season opener.
“They are character builders. It was terrific. And it was really good for us because we had one pitcher left,” Gamboa confessed after watching starters Jose Celas and three relievers combine to limit the ValleyCats to a run on seven hits, despite yielding eight walks.
The Cyclones (4-2), who committed four errors in the contest and finished the first full week of the season with the poorest fielding percentage in the New York-Penn League, were admittedly fortunate to be in a position to win in the 12th.
“Our defense has been ugly at times through this first week of the season,” Gamboa admitted. “Tonight didn’t help it any. When you have to get more than three outs in an inning, something bad is going to happen.”
This time, however, it didn’t as Carlos Valdez (1-0) struck out three, walked one and gave up a hit over the final two frames to set up Diehl’s late-game heroics.
The 21-year-old first baseman, who is batting a sizzling .429 with a homer and four RBIs, jumped on the first pitch from Tri-City reliever Joselo Pinales (0-1), launching a shot to deep right field that sent Michael Katz roaring home all the way from first base.
“[I was] just focusing on getting a good pitch to hit and drive,” said Diehl, who batted .263 with 13 RBIs in a 36-game stint for Brooklyn last summer.
Gamboa revealed that had Diehl not come through, he would have likely summoned right-hander Christian Montgomery out of the bullpen “for two innings”.
After that, Brooklyn would have likely used position players to try to navigate its way through the Tri-City lineup.
“It’s always good to win, but it’s about development,” Gamboa noted.
Thus far, the Cyclones appear to be developing a toughness in late-inning situations.
Brooklyn was baffled for the early portion of the evening by ‘Cats starter Rogelio Armenteros, who gave up three hits over the first five frames while striking out seven.
“That will probably be as good a pitcher as we’ll see all year,” Gamboa confessed. “Our guys have to realize that if they want to get up to the big leagues, they’re going to have to find a way to hit a guy like that.”
Vinny Siena finally got Brooklyn off the schneid with an RBI single in the sixth and middle relievers Craig Missigman and Alex Palsha held the ‘Cats at bay until Valdez came on to pitch the final two innings.
Celas, making his Class A Short-Season debut, was erratic, but hard to hit through the first 4 2/3 frames, surrendering a run on three hits despite six walks with three strikeouts.
“It’s his first outing at this level,” Gamboa said. “But he only gave up a couple of hits and one run and got us through almost five innings. His stuff was really good tonight.”
Up next for Brooklyn is a weekend series against visiting Connecticut, the team that nosed the Cyclones out for the final NY-Penn playoff spot last summer.
Though most of these fresh-faced Baby Bums are new to the league, Gamboa, for one, is looking forward to some payback against the Tigers.
“Connecticut kept us from making the playoffs last year, so hopefully we can play well against them this series,” said the skipper, who came within a head-to-head tiebreaker of leading Brooklyn back to the postseason in his first campaign at the helm.
This, That and the Other Thing: The Cyclones wore special “Saved by the Bell” jerseys Wednesday night in honor of the early 1990s hit “Tween” sitcom. The actor who portrayed the school principal, Mr. Belding, on the iconic program was in attendance at MCU Park. Dennis Haskins was on hand to sign autographs and take photos with fans. He also threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … RF Michael Bernal, a NY-Penn All-Star at Brooklyn last year, probably won’t be on Coney Island for much longer if he keeps up his torrid hitting. The 23-year-old slugger is hitting .368 with two homers and eight RBIs in only five games, meaning he could be headed to Class A Savannah or Class A Advanced St. Lucie before the summer is up.
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