Cyclones on the brink, but back in Brooklyn
Baby Bums edged by Renegades in opener of best-of-3 semifinals
After waiting seven long years to see their Cyclones back in the playoffs, Brooklyn fans are hoping this postseason run doesn’t end prematurely.
Despite rallying to win the McNamara Division crown on the regular season’s final day, the Baby Bums once again find themselves on the brink of elimination following Wednesday night’s 5-4 loss to Hudson Valley in the opening game of the best-of-3 New York-Penn League semifinals.
The Cyclones, missing from the playoffs since 2012, headed to Wappinger Falls, N.Y., riding a three-game winning streak that catapulted them over the Renegades and Aberdeen IronBirds for their first division crown since 2010.
The crowd of 2,225 at Dutchess County Stadium was treated to a back-and-forth affair that saw Hudson Valley take the lead for good on Greg Jones’ two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning off Brooklyn starter Michael Otanez (0-1), erasing the Cyclones’ 4-3 lead.
Otanez surrendered all five runs on only three hits, including a pair of long balls, while issuing four walks and striking out one in four-plus frames.
Mitch Ragan provided three innings of scoreless relief and Jared Biddy struck out one in a clean eighth, but the Brooklyn bats went dormant after Luke Ritter’s RBI grounder in the top of the fifth.
Left fielder Antoine Duplantis went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored and Jake Mangum and Jose Peroza each drove home a run for the Cyclones, who were slated to host Game 3 at Coney Island’s MCU Park on Thursday night.
Hudson Valley starter Jayden Murray (1-0) went seven strong innings, yielding one earned run despite allowing eight hits to pick up the win as the Renegades protected their home field.
Ryan Jackson shut the Cyclones down over the final two frames for the save, stranding a pair of runners in the eighth and striking out the side in the ninth to thwart any hopes of a Brooklyn comeback.
The Renegades dented the scoreboard first on Ben Troike’s run-scoring double in the bottom of the second, but Brooklyn answered immediately in the top of the third as Duplantis ripped a two-bagger and came chugging home on Mangum’s ensuing base hit up the middle.
Mangum appeared to have a chance to give Brooklyn an early lead when he sped for home on Wilmer Reyes’ base hit to right later in the frame, but right fielder Hill Alexander fired a perfect strike to catcher Jonathan Embry to nail Mangum and keep the score deadlocked at 1-1.
The Renegades edged in front again on Luis Leon’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, plating Nick Sogard, and Jacson McGowan reached Otanez for a homer over the right-field fence to make it 3-1 Hudson Valley.
Peroza drove in Joe Genord with an RBI single in the top of the fourth and scored on the front end of a double-steal attempt later in the inning to knot the game at 3-3.
Duplantis singled leading off the top of the fifth and scored on Ritter’s RBI fielder’s choice, but that would be the end of any significant threats for the Cyclones, who have their backs to the wall, much the way they did entering the regular season’s final weekend.
Brooklyn must now win Thursday and also take Game 3, also scheduled to be played in Coney Island, on Friday night to advance to the NY-Penn Championship Series for the first time since 2010.
The Cyclones will send this year’s fifth-round pick Nathan Jones to the hill for the potential elimination game.
The Northwestern State alum and Louisiana native went winless during seven starts during the regular season, but can erase that dubious distinction by keeping Brooklyn’s hopes alive Thursday.
The Baby Bums will also get some Major League help in Game 3 as rehabbing Mets infielder Jared Lowrie is expected to be in the Brooklyn lineup as he continues his long-awaited return to Citi Field to help the parent club in its battle for one of the two National League wild-card spots.
Hudson Valley will try to close the Cyclones out on their home field with starter Evan McKendry, who boasts a 4-1 mark and 1.60 ERA this year.
Brooklyn went 6-2 vs. Hudson Valley during the regular season, including a pair of victories in the only two meetings at MCU Park.
The Cyclones hope to continue that trend over the next two days and resume the Class A short-season franchise’s quest for its first title since the inaugural 2001 campaign.
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