By John Torenli
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly noted last week that he'd "find out what type of team we had" during the first of Brooklyn's three extended road trips this summer.
After winning four of six games between Norwich, Conn., and State College, Pa., including a three-game sweep of the Spikes, the 65-year-old skipper has to believe he's got a pretty resilient squad as the Baby Bums return to what promises to be a sweltering MCU Park for a one-game stopover against second-place Hudson Valley on Tuesday night.
The Cyclones (18-10) began their trek across two states with a 1-0 defeat to the Tigers last Wednesday, stretching their season-high losing streak to four games. But Brooklyn rebounded to win four of the next five, including Tuesday's 7-4 win over the Spikes, which featured a season high-tying 13 hits, including a pair from suddenly red-hot prospect Brandon Nimmo.
The Mets' first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2011 MLB Draft went 2-for-5 with a double, a run scored and his New York-Penn League-leading 22nd walk as the Cyclones remained two games in front of the Renegades entering the teams' brief home-and-home set, which will be followed by a four-game series against the archrival Staten Island Yankees.
Nimmo, who spent most of the first month of the season struggling to reach the Mendoza line (.200), is batting a blistering .351 (13-for-37) with three doubles, a triple, eight runs scored and two RBIs over his last 10 games, boosting his previously middling average to a more respectable .250.
“[He's being] more aggressive," Donnelly said of his 19-year-old center fielder last week. "[Hitting instructor] Bobby Malek is getting him to be more aggressive on the hitting counts. Don’t be sitting on that breaking ball with two strikes because nine out of 10 times you might get a fast ball and you don’t want to take that. He’s a freshman and he’s slowly growing into a sophomore."
Nimmo sparked what proved to be the game-winning rally Tuesday, stroking a leadoff single to right field before scoring on Stefan Sabol's RBI groundout later in the frame as Brooklyn put up five runs in the inning to overcome an early 4-2 deficit. Clearly more intent on pulling the inside pitch, Nimmo yanked his sixth double of the summer to right in the eighth to cap his fourth consecutive multi-hit effort.
The highest-drafted player ever to slap on a Cyclones uniform finally appears poised to strut the stuff that made him a somewhat questionable first-round selection, considering the Mets plucked him out of American Legion ball as there was no high school team for him to play on in Cheyenne, Wyo.
“It’s been a huge adjustment," Nimmo admitted earlier this month. "Every game I’m learning something new. This is so much different than the spring training atmosphere. I’m just trying to learn as fast as I can. You’re going to make mistakes, but you have to learn from them.
“There’s a little bit more pressure, but you have to get past that," Nimmo added. "It’s still baseball. It’s still playing on a diamond. It’s all mental. You have to be strong mentally."
Nimmo's teammates displayed their mental toughness following their first significant swoon of the long, hot summer. The Cyclones ended the slide with a 4-1 win at Connecticut last Thursday night as Dominican right-hander Rainy Lara struck out eight over six brilliant innings of one-run ball for his third win in four decisions. Despite a 5-2 loss to the Tigers in the series finale, Brooklyn bounced right back by sweeping past the Spikes with a 6-3 win Saturday and a 3-2 triumph Sunday before Monday night's victory.
Though they doubtlessly feel more comfortable in the friendly environs of Coney Island, the Cyclones' record indicates that they are road warriors, going 10-4 away from MCU Park, where they own an 8-6 record.
That's the sign of a solid team, one that doesn't fold under the pressure of playing in front of a hostile crowd — something that should serve Donnelly and his young unit well as they embark on two more six-game trips before the summer's up.
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This, That and the Other Thing: RHP Matt Bowman, the Mets' 13th-round pick out of Princeton last month, continues to impress during his first pro season. The hard-throwing 21-year-old right-hander from Chevy Chase, Md., closed out Sunday's 3-2 win at State College with three scoreless innings of relief for his second save of the summer. Bowman, whom Mets scouts and Cyclones fans compare to San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum due to his similar delivery, struck out one and yielded one hit during his longest outing in four appearances, dropping his ERA to 3.24. Bowman has struck out nine and walked one over 8 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder hurler shares a bond with Mets right-handed starter Chris Young as both played for coach Scott Bradley at Princeton. Though Bowman attended a Mets game at Citi Field prior to the Cyclones' season opener, he has yet to touch base with his fellow Ivy Leaguer, though he fully intends to before his time in Brooklyn is done. “I have not spoke to Chris yet," Bowman intimated following his season debut on July 3. "Our coach at Princeton speaks to both of us, so I’ve heard from him indirectly. I’m certainly going to try to contact him.” ... 1B/DH Cole Frenzel, who continues to lead Brooklyn with a .342 batting average despite a recent slump, got the night off Monday. Frenzel, a .400 hitter for the first 2 1/2 weeks of the season, is batting .121 with one RBI over his last 10 games.