Erie SeaWolves 9, Binghamton Rumble Ponies 6 (box)
A tough Rumble Ponies offense beat up on Erie starting pitching, but the lineup returned the favor, scoring in five of the final six innings as top relief prospects Blake Holub and Tyler Mattison slammed the door to take Game 1 on Monday night in Binghamton. The SeaWolves are now a win away from their first Eastern League championship.
Wilmer Flores got the start for Erie, and this was only his second outing since returning from injury in July and a rehab assignment in West Michigan. Unfortunately the rust showed.
Trei Cruz opened the game with a double, but the SeaWolves went 1-2-3 after that, failing to get Cruz home.
Luisangel Acuna reached on an infield single to open the bottom half of the first. A Flores pickoff throw went wide, advancing Acuna, while Flores struggled to locate his fastball a bit, walking Jett Williams. Drew Gilbert flew out to left, but Kevin Parada spanked a grounder back through the box to score Acuna. Williams took third on the play, and scored on a JT Schwartz ground out to make it 2-0. A wild pitch, which probably should’ve been a passed ball on Eliezer Alfonzo, moved Schwartz to second, but Flores was able to get Jeremiah Jackson to ground out, ending the first.
The SeaWolves got a leadoff single from Jake Holton in the second inning, but went in order from there. Flores immediately allowed a leadoff double to Rowkey Jordan to open the second inning. Mateo Gil struck out, but Rhylan Thomas followed with a ground rule double to make it 3-0 Rumble Ponies. Flores got a pair of fly outs to end the inning but just wasn’t very sharp and his night would end there as southpaw starter Lael Lockhart took over in the third and quieted the Rumble Ponies for the next three frames.
The SeaWolves got a pair of two out walks to Danny Serretti and Jace Jung, but Chris Meyers struck out to end the top of the third. Jake Holton led off the fourth with a ground ball to third that went for an error, and he scored when Ben Malgeri doubled to left. The SeaWolves went in order after the run scored, unable to get Malgeri home, but they were starting to get loose.
In the fifth, it was Trei Cruz again leading off with an extra base hit, this time driving a fly ball to the wall in center field and cruising to third with a triple. A sacrifice fly from Serretti scored Cruz to make it 3-2 Binghamton. Jace Jung flew out for the second out of the inning, but Rumble Ponies starter Blade Tidwell plunked Chris Meyers and Jake Holton made him pay, smoking a fly ball to left center field to give Erie a 4-3 lead.
Lockhart was still hanging tough in the bottom of the fifth, while Binghamton turned to right-hander Benito Garcia out of their pen to open the sixth. Garcia made the cardinal mistake, walking the leadoff hitter, Daniel Cabrera, and the SeaWolves made him pay as well. A pair of ground outs from Alfonzo and Workman got Cabrera to third, and then Cruz lined a double to right field for his third extra base hit of the game. Danny Serretti singled in Cruz, and it was 6-3 Erie.
Lockhart gave up an infield single in the bottom of the sixth, but had the first two outs in the books when he walked Jett Williams to put two on for a very dangerous hitting prospect in Drew Gilbert. Gilbert made Lockhart pay, blasting a three-run shot to right to tie the game at 6-6. The Binghamton faithful went nuts, and the momentum seemed to be on their side.
Still, the Erie SeaWolves were not to be denied on this night. They got right back to work in the top of the seventh. A two out single from Daniel Cabrera was followed by an Alfonzo double, and they led 7-6. Gage Workman grounded out to end the frame, but the SeaWolves had the lead and they had their ace relievers lined up to take this one to the house.
Blake Holub allowed a two out single in the bottom of the seventh, but no more as he struck out Gil to end the inning. The Rumble Ponies turned to reliever Trey McLoughlin in the top of the eighth, and he set the SeaWolves down in order.
Tyler Mattison, the ace of the SeaWolves bullpen came on in the bottom of the eighth. He allowed a two out walk to Williams, but Alfonzo cut him down trying to steal second to end the inning.
Wilkin Ramos took over on the mound for Binghamton in the ninth, looking to hold that Erie lead to one run and make a comeback in the bottom of the ninth, but it did not go that way.
Instead, Ramon walked Chris Meyers and hit Holton to start the inning. Both runners advanced to third on a Malgeri ground out, but Daniel Cabrera came through with a big hit, lining a single to left to score Meyers. An Alfonzo sacrifice fly scored Holton, and it was 9-6 Erie.
Tyler Mattison gave up a leadoff single to Gilbert in the bottom of the ninth, but struck out Parada and Schwartz before getting a fly out to end the game and secure the six-out save.
Fantastic work from Holub and in particularly Mattison, as they slammed the door and gave the SeaWolves time to rebuild their lead. Huge night for Trei Cruz, playing excellent center field and just flat out raking out of the leadoff spot, while Jake Holton provided the thump right when Erie really needed it to get back into the game.
Cruz: 3-5, 2 R, RBI, 3B, 2 2B
Holton: 2-4, 3 R, 2 RBI, HR, K
Cabrera: 2-4, 2 R, RBI, BB
Flores: 2.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, BB, K
Lockhart (W, 1-0): 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 6 K
Mattison (S, 1): 2.0 IP, 0 R, H, BB, 2 K
Coming Up Next: The series now moves to Erie for Game 2 and if necessary, Game 3. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. ET from UPMC Park. Gabe Alvarez will send LHP Brant Hurter to the mound for Game 3 against Binghamton’s RHP Christian Scott. Ty Madden will be on alert for a deciding Game 3 if required.