BROOKLYN, NY – The cyclical nature of baseball produces a myriad of random results and outcome. One week of dominance can lead to overconfidence and the feeling of complacency, while a week of futility brings frustration and hardship. After thirty games, the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees seemed poised to leave their opponents in the dust in the McNamara Division, but a one win showing for each, combined with improving returns by rivals Aberdeen and Hudson Valley, created a four way tie atop the circuit, entering play on Wednesday. Off the heels of an extra inning Renegades victory over the Cyclones on Tuesday at Dutchess Stadium, the teams reconvened in Brooklyn, hoping to keep pace in a suddenly volatile division. The Cyclones took advantage of scoring more than four runs for the first time since July 20th, en route to a 6-3 victory over Hudson Valley.
At the onset of their 37th game of the season, the Brooklyn Cyclones were mired in an unprecedented mid season slump. The collective .218 batting average by the club ranked dead last in the New York-Penn League and 158th out of the 160 teams encompassing professional baseball. To add insult to injury, the Cyclones had lost 12 of their last 17 games as futility set in. “We did not have anybody on our team hit on the whole road trip”, Brooklyn manager Tom Gamboa said. “Tomorrow we will be halfway through the season, so it is discouraging. The statistics don’t lie. We are arguably the worst hitting team in all of professional baseball and maybe tonight is a start, but the road trip could not have gone worse.” Facing 8th rounder Roel Ramirez, the task seemed monumental. Ramirez’s earned run average of 1.87 ranked second in the league and against a dormant offense it seemed like the wrong night for Brooklyn to erase their recent shortcomings. With their work cut of them, the Cyclones struck quickly in the first inning. Consecutive singles by Tucker Tharp and Vinny Siena, opened the door for Michael Bernal, whose two run triple to center field gave Brooklyn an early cushion and an eventual 3-0 first inning lead.
Kevin Canelon, an undrafted free agent by the New York Mets in 2010, made his seventh start for Brooklyn, showing progress not indicative of his 4.33 earned run average. Canelon’s fastball and changeup were difficult to solve for the Hudson Valley hitters, who fanned seven times in the first five innings. After Ramirez reverted to his previous dominance, Tucker Tharp tagged him with his first professional home run over the left field wall to lead off the fifth inning. “It felt good”, Tharp said. “It took a lot longer than I thought it was going to take, but it felt great. I have been hitting the ball well in the last week and usually the ball does not carry here very well. I was just fortunate to get a good pitch with two strikes.” Ramirez surrendered four runs in his second start against Brooklyn, lacking the sharpness in his previous outing, seeing his earned run average spike from 1.78 to 2.56
The definition of insurance is protection from calamity and in the ensuing inning, Brooklyn’s insurance run became negligible on a sacrifice fly by Hudson Valley’s Cade Gotta as the lone blemish on the line of Canelon, who allowed just one run and four hits in six innings of work. The Cyclones evened the ledger and then some on a majestic two run home run over the left field wall by Jeff Diehl in the bottom half of the eighth to give Brooklyn a five run advantage and a 12-2 record in affairs when denting the plate four or more times. “I got a pitch to hit in the at bat”, Diehl said. “It was a mistake pitch. He left it over the plate and I drove it over the fence”. The Renegades posed a threat in the ninth, getting the tying run to the plate after an Angel Moreno single plated the inning’s second run, but Brooklyn held on for the victory and sole possession of first place.
As the New York- Penn League enters the official midway point of the short season slate on Thursday, the McNamara Division finds themselves with all four teams separated by just a single game, after the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees began the season matching each other at the penthouse of the circuit. The Cyclones experienced a free fall once their top ranked pitching staff could not keep pace with a subpar offensive showing, following a 14-5 start. While some might easily point to the dearth of big name prospects on the club this season, the adjustments to professional baseball begin to take the toll on the body, after months of training prior to the start of the season. Players at the high school and college level have to adroitly master playing every day of the week as opposed to exclusively on weekends, facing fatigue, slumps, and common struggles against some of the best players in the league. With nearly half the season remaining, it is likely that every division games assume greater importance and weighted due to tiebreaker scenarios. The second half of the New-York Penn League season in the McNamara Division will resemble a second Opening Day and a chance to reverse bad fortune. Six weeks separate the halfway mark from the postseason with the season hanging in the balance and the opportunity to end the year with promise and optimism.