BROOKLYN, NY – One game is all it takes. One game separates victory from defeat. Breaking a tie versus falling victim to a tie break. Fair or foul and safe and out. Baseball is a game of inches, breaks, and opportunities. On Wednesday the Brooklyn Cyclones allowed their bitter rivals from Staten Island to claim an extra inning victory on a balk. Ten innings of errors, lost chances, and strange occurrences put the Baby Bombers within one game of first place in the McNamara Division. The series shifted on Thursday to the familiar confines of MCU Park where the Cyclones sought to maintain their mark atop the division standings, but the combination of stagnant offensive production and the stellar efforts of Kolton Mahoney was enough for a 1-0 Staten Island victory and a share of first place in the McNamara Division.
The Staten Island Yankees looked to pick up where they left off on Wednesday against 29th round draft pick Matt Blackham, netting successive singles with Kyle Holder and Thairo Estrada in the top of the first inning but failed to score after Blackham fanned Jhalan Jackson and Jake Hernandez with two runners in scoring position. Staten Island starter Kolton Mahoney evened the ledger, striking out the side in Brooklyn’s first turn at the plate.
The Baby Bombers were stymied by the artisan effort by Blackham, who routinely pitched in the outside part of the plate, inducing chases while racking up strikeouts. After four innings, eight punchouts were on the stat sheet and ten in six innings of work.
“Blackham pitched a masterpiece tonight,” Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said. “Our pitching day in and day out has been phenomenal. It is a shame to waste a pitching effort like that and fall short.”
Blackham’s reign of dominance came to a close in the 5th inning when an RBI single by 9th round draft pick Ryan Krill scored Brandon Wagner to give Staten Island a 1-0 lead, ending the righthander’s scoreless inning streak at MCU Park at 19 innings. Mahoney, a 16th round pick by the Yankees out of BYU, persevered the lead, tossing five scoreless innings and striking out six in the process, utilizing his 12/6 curveball against the predominantly right-handed Brooklyn lineup.
Mahoney proceeded to toss six shutout inning, matching Blackham pitch for pitch in a classic pitcher’s duel. The Cyclones best scoring opportunity was thwarted in the sixth when Jeff Hendrix robbed Michael Bernal of possible extra bases and on a ball hit over his shoulder, diving to his right to the make the catch in left center field. Second baseman Vinny Siena preceded Bernal with a single and possibly had a chance of scoring, if not for the heroics of Hendrix.
“There was no question that was a game saving and a game decision play,” Gamboa said. “The catch he made on Bernal was phenomenal. Best catch I have seen all year.”
Siena came up again in the eighth with the tying run, but struck out looking to end the frame and Brooklyn’s solo possession of first place in the division. Brooklyn would put two runners on base in their final at bat against reliever but once again fell short, finishing 0 out of 5 with runners in scoring position.
A sell out crowd of 8,309 fans filled MCU Park to capacity, while others experienced the New York-Penn League for the first time this season from the comfort of their homes with SNY broadcasting the game live during the Major League Baseball All-Star Break. Fans were able to witness an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel and the drama of two rival franchises competing fervently for the top of the division.
Many who tuned in to see highly anticipated Yankees first round draft pick Kyle Holder were not disappointed after the shortstop contributed two of Staten Island’s six base hits. On the other end of the spectrum, a valiant effort for Brooklyn and starter Matt Blackham fell short on a night where one single play, at bat, or pitch could have altered the final result. Similar to the major leagues, the margin for error is miniscule in the New-York Penn League over the course of a truncated 76 game campaign.
The Brooklyn Cyclones will look to reclaim first place in the final game of the series on Friday night across the bridge in Staten Island, where a #BeatBKLYN night awaits and the momentum shifted in favor of the Baby Bombers, who look to sweep the three game series with pitcher Luis Cedeno seeking his fourth win of the short season. He will be opposed by lefty Kevin Canelon for Brooklyn, hoping to curtail a potential three game sweep and reclaim sole possession of first place.