By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Blanked for the first five innings in Batavia, N.Y., Wednesday night, the previously "punchless" Brooklyn Cyclones finally delivered a pair of big blows in the sixth en route to a much-needed 3-2 victory over the Muckdogs before a sparse crowd of 917 at Dwyer Stadium.
Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly, who lamented his team's inability to throw a punch following a two-game sweep at the hands of Aberdeen at MCU Park earlier in the week, watched his "Road Warriors" improve to 13-5 away from Coney Island on the strength of back-to-back homers by Alexander Sanchez and Stefan Sabol, backing another solid performance on the hill by starter Gabriel Ynoa (2-1).
"Hopefully we can go out there and regain the form we had earlier in the year," Donnelly noted following Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the IronBirds on Surf Avenue.
Owners of the worst batting average with runners in scoring position (.202) in the New York-Penn League, the Baby Bums (22-15) appeared en route to squandering yet another strong pitching effort as Ynoa was being outdueled by Batavia starter Ben Freeman (2-2) through the first five frames.
Trailing, 2-0, entering the sixth, the Cyclones showed signs of life when Jayce Boyd started what proved to be the game-winning rally with a leadoff single off the Muckdogs' 20-year-old left-hander. Boyd moved to second base on a wild pitch with one out and jogged home when Sanchez drove an offering over the left-field fence for his first homer of the summer, forging a 2-2 tie.
Sabol sent the next pitch over the center-field fence for his second long ball of the year as Brooklyn went in front for good.
"We're looking to start hitting again," Donnelly intimated before his club embarked on its second six-game road trip of the campaign, one which will continue Thursday and Friday night in Batavia before a weekend series at Mahoning Valley.
Though three runs on eight hits hardly qualifies as a breakout performance by the NY-Penn's second-lowest scoring team, the Cyclones will gladly take the win and hope to continue their push to reclaim the top spot in the McNamara Division. Wednesday's win left them two lengths behind first-place Hudson Valley on the eve of the official midway point of their 12th season as the New York Mets' Class A short-season affiliate.
Sanchez, who leads Cyclones regulars with a .278 average, finished 2-for-4 and Sabol also had two hits as Brooklyn won for just the second time in its last six games.
Ynoa, who tossed six scoreless innings in last Thursday's 1-0, 15-inning victory over Staten Island, picked up his first victory since June 24 despite yielding two earned runs or fewer in three of his previous four outings. The 19-year-old Dominican right-hander was reached for two runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and no walks over six innings before Paul Sewald earned his second save of the summer with three scoreless innings.
"He has the poise of a much older pitcher, you watch him sometimes and think, 'Wow, this guy's a veteran and he's only 19 years old,'" Donnelly told MLB.com last week following Ynoa's gem against the Yankees. "He doesn't throw 95 [mph], but he knows how to change speeds and spot his fastball. He's always strike one. Very rarely goes into counts where it's 2-1, 3-1.
"He'd be hell at a carnival, he'd come home with a whole bag full of stuffed animals," Donnelly added.
Brooklyn, which is just 9-10 at home this year, continued to struggle in the clutch as Sanchez's blast was its only hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position Wednesday night.
But the back-to-back blows provided the winning margin, and for Donnelly, a reminder of how well things were going when the Baby Bums appeared on the verge of running away early in the McNamara Division race.
"When we were hitting, we weren't worried about anything," the 65-year-old skipper said.
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This, That and the Other Thing: C Nelfi Zapata,who was 0-for-July entering the road trip, finally got off the schneid in the sixth inning Wednesday, delivering a single to end a ghastly 0-for-31 stretch. Zapata, who nearly boiled over in frustration during an 0-for-4 effort Tuesday afternoon at MCU Park, lifted his average to .098 with the base knock. ... Though they're offense has been futile of late, the Cyclones rank second in the NY-Penn with 19 homers this season.