Like the highs and lows of a roller coaster, the Vermont Lake Monsters season rolls on. Much like a carnival ride, the Lake Monsters have struggled to remain consistent. One night after pushing across nine runs on eight hits, including home runs from Steven Pallares and Mikey White in a 9-4 win, the Vermont bats went cold in front of a packed Kids Campers day at Centennial.
Held to just five hits and seven base runners through the first six innings, the Lake Monsters rally fell short as they dropped the second game of the home stand 8-4 in 12 innings to Mahoning Valley.
Corey Miller took the loss for Vermont in three innings of work, giving up four runs on five hits, all of which came in the 12th inning.
Chris Iriart led the way for Vermont, going 3-for-5, including a two-run home run in the ninth inning that cut the deficit to one.
“We need to find a little more consistency with our offensive approach,” manager Aaron Nieckula said. “Instead of the ebb and flow that we’ve experienced two-three weeks into the season, we need to find some consistency both mentally and physically where we can maintain a level play on the field.
After being held to just seven base runners through the first six frames, the Vermont offense erupted in the ninth inning. Trailing 4-1, Seth Brown led things off for Vermont with a walk before Iriart lined his second home run of the season.
Jesus Lopez singled to right field before Ryan Howell was hit by a pitch. A one out single by Trace Loehr loaded the bases for a Richie Martin fielders choice to first base, scoring Lopez from third and tying the game.
The rally would be for not as Mahoning Valley broke lose with their four-run 12th on a barrage of singles.
“They’ve played well overall, it’s just a matter of overall on a consistent basis,” Nieckula said. “If we can get there I think we’ll be in a good spot moving forward.”
Moments That Mattered:
Bang Bang: Mahoning Valley took a page out of the Vermont Lake Monsters book, using the long ball to grab a 2-0 lead in the second inning. David Armendariz sent a long fly ball to right field off Driver, sending right fielder Seth Brown back to the fence. Brown made a leaping effort at the wall, but the ball carried just beyond his glove, while Brown nearly toppled over the six-foot fence.
Mahoning Valley struck again in the fourth, using three singles and a walk, all with two outs, to plate a pair of runs and extend the lead to four.
Lone Path: Vermont didn’t get a base runner until the third inning when Richie Martin was hit by a pitch. The Lake Monsters first baserunner would quickly be erased, however, when Martin was thrown out trying to steal second base.
Pallares followed the caught stealing by lacing the Lake Monsters first hit down the left field line, eventually coming around to score a Brown sacrifice fly.
In the sixth inning, Martin again reached for Vermont and again was caught trying to steal second, ending a Lake Monster scoring opportunity
“We’re going to stay aggressive,” Nieckula said. “We’re not going to run ourselves out of the inning but we’re certainly going to try and put pressure on the defense and take advantage of the extra base and put runs on the board.”
Controlled: Vermont, which is tied for the league lead with 14 home runs, struggled to get a hit, let a lone a home run, until late in the game. Despite managing only eight hits in the series opening win against the Scrappers, Vermont relied heavily on the wild pitching from Mahoning Valley.
Vermont capitalized on eight walks, propelling the offense. In the matinee loss, Vermont put just one runner on for free, via Martin’s plunking in the third. Mahoning Valley entered play leading the league with 83 walks as a pitching staff, but remained in control throughout the game, finishing with four walks.
“We just have to maintain a consistent approach, stay in the zone,” Nieckula said. “If you go out of the zone and you swing at his pitch, get yourself in negative counts, then why would they go in the zone? If we can maintain plate discipline and lay off the junk, get yourself a fastball count, chances are you’ll hit it hard somewhere.”
Not So Sweet Home: After tearing through the opening road trip, Martin, the first round selection for the Oakland A’s, has struggled since returning home. Through the first two games of the home stand, Martin is 0-for-8 with two walks and has been caught steeling twice.
Martin began his career with Vermont going 10-for-19 with three walks and a home run, but went 0-for-4 in the final game of the road trip before his struggles at Centennial began.
“(He’s) a first round guy, the expectations are high,” said Nieckula. “He’s just got to stay focused physically, stay focused mentally. He’s a very gifted athlete, he’s very talented, he’ll be fine. Just a few adjustments mentally and I think he’ll be right back on track, not that he’s gotten off track.”