BROOKLYN, NY: For any child growing up in the 80s and 90s Saturday mornings were an oasis after five days tethered to the confines of school. Sitting inches away from the television, gazing deeply at the images of cartoons as children’s programming became an unofficial tradition for youngsters in an era where cable was in its infancy and the broadcast networks retained relevancy.
By the late 1980s NBC capitalized on the growing market of youth programming with a live action series called “Saved by the Bell”. The sitcom starring six teens from Bayside, California would become a worldwide cultural phenomenon and on Wednesday, the Brooklyn Cyclones celebrated the series with a “Salute to Saved by the Bell Night”, complete with jerseys echoing the iconic series, before defeating the Tri-City Valley Cats in a thrilling twelve inning marathon by a 2-1 margin in the finale of a three-game series.
After a 14 run barrage by the Brooklyn Cyclones on Monday and a 16-hit assault by the Tri-City Valley Cats on Tuesday, the final game of the series would be more subdued offensively. Cyclones starter Jose Celas, in his sixth season in the New York Mets organization, made his debut for Brooklyn and had difficulty with consistent command of his secondary pitches, walking 4 in the first three innings. Celas would experience his first jam in the top of the third inning with runners at first and second, when catcher Nathaniel Ramos committed a throwing error attempting to nail Tri-City leadoff batter Johnny Sewald on a stolen base attempt. On the play Sewald would score the game’s first run to put the ValleyCats on top early. Celas would struggle to find a rhythm, lasting just four and two-thirds innings, walking six, but allowing just a single unearned run, keeping Brooklyn in the contest.
Houston Astros prospect Rogelio Armenteros opposed Celas for the ValleyCats and kept Brooklyn in check for much of the night. Armenteros, a Cuban defector, fanned seven Cyclones in the first five innings, mostly relying on an effective 94 mile per hour fastball and sharp curveball late in the count, while pitching shutout baseball.
“Their starter will probably be as good of a pitcher as we will see and our guys will have to realize if they want to get to the big leagues, they have to get to a point where they can handle a guy like that because he overmatched our whole team”, Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said.
Elieser Hernandez would come on in relief in the bottom half of the sixth inning as the defense appeared to open the door for Brooklyn. A misplayed fly ball off of the bat of Alfredo Reyes and a subsequent throwing error placed runners at the corners before Reyes would be caught in a rundown, displacing any possible threat until a run scoring single by Vinny Siena tied the game for Brooklyn.
The game would remain tied entering the 9th inning, with every pitch taking on greater meaning. No one would cross the plate in regulation and the game would fittingly lead to extra innings or detention in the theme of Saved by the Bell Night.
After Sewald led off the tenth inning with a single, a Reyes error would put runners at the corners to open the additional frame, but a twin-killing hit into by Bryan Muniz kept the game deadlocked. Another Reyes error two innings later would mirror the 10th when Tri-City loaded the bases for the third time in the game and failed to score. Lost opportunities adversely affect momentum. For Brooklyn, mistakes bred auspicious results in the ensuing half inning when a walk to Emmauel Zabala allowed first baseman Jeff Diehl to triple him home and give the Cyclones their 4th victory of the season. “I was focusing on getting a good pitch to hit”, Diehl said. “I was looking for a first pitch fastball. He left it over the middle of the plate and I stroked it to right field to win the game”.
At the short season level of professional baseball, errors, lost goals, and failures serve as a learning experience for a prospective future at the higher levels of the game. While the difficulties can become frustrating over the course of a 76 game season, they provide the drama, theater, and pageantry we come to expect from a sport absent of a clock and unable to be saved by the bell.
Recognizing obstacles and preparing for the next chance or at bat enables progress and a higher quality of play once the season progresses and the pennant races determine a club’s ultimate fate. The Brooklyn Cyclones will escape with a victory knowing that one walk, fifteen strikeouts, and four errors leave room for improvement and growth with less than a week of play under their belt. The Tri-City Valley Cats will reflect on thirteen runners left on base and an 0 out of 10 ledger with runners in scoring position, seeking to look ahead at tomorrow after a half-fought effort concluded without a desired outcome.