Baby Bombers rally past Brooklyn, 5-3, on Thomas' three-run blast
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Two steps forward, one step back might not be good enough for the Cyclones if they hope to capture a third straight postseason berth this summer.
With the regular-season slate down to a mere 14 games, Brooklyn can ill-afford to give away late leads or lose to teams that no longer have a realistic chance of qualifying for the postseason.
The Baby Bums did both Wednesday night at Richmond County Bank Ballpark, squandering a two-run lead in an eventual 5-3 loss to the last-place Staten Island Yankees before a crowd of 4,701.
The Cyclones (31-30), who had won seven of their previous 10 games to pull within one-half game of first-place Aberdeen in the McNamara Division race, were up 3-1 after James Roche extended his hitting streak to nine games and capped a three-run third inning with a two-out RBI single.
But the Baby Bombers (25-36), enduring what will likely be their second straight non-playoff campaign after winning six New York-Penn League championships since entering the 14-team circuit in 2000, continued to relish playing the role of spoiler during Brooklyn's late-season playoff push.
Mike Ford connected for a solo blast off Cyclones starter Darwin Frias (1-1) in the fourth and Brandon Thomas reached him for what proved to be a game-winning three-run shot in the sixth, pushing the Yanks in front, 5-3.
"[Frias] had thrown (a slider) to me the previous at-bat so I had seen it a couple times,” Thomas told the Staten Island Advance of the pitch he yanked over the right-field fall for the go-ahead runs. “I wasn’t looking for it, but the pitch was up and I just reacted.”
Desperately in need of a comeback of their own, the Cyclones managed just one hit the rest of the way.
Coupled with Aberdeen's 6-5, 10-inning triumph at Hudson Valley on Wednesday night, Brooklyn fell 1 1/2 games back of the division's top spot following the loss.
The setback also dropped the Cyclones to 5-6 against their Verrazano rivals this summer entering Thursday night's 7 p.m. showdown at MCU Park, which will be televised on the Mets' cable affiliate, SNY.
The Baby Bums have split the first four games of this five-game set with the Yanks, and are slated to visit Vermont for a three-game series before facing Staten Island twice more after hosting Tri-City for three games next week.
Those contests will all be crucial as Brooklyn prepares to welcome the first-place IronBirds to Coney Island on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 in what could turn out to be the deciding factor in the McNamara title hunt.
Roche went 3-for-4 in the painful defeat, and is batting a sizzling .364 with two homers and seven RBI during his hitting streak.
Gavin Cecchini beat out a double-play grounder to drive in a run and also scored once, but finished 0-for-3 at the plate, making him hitless in 10 at-bats since putting together a team season-best 15-game hitting streak earlier this month.
Unfortunately for the Cyclones, the wild card is likely not a viable option for playoff participation. Brooklyn is currently 6 1/2 games back of Jamestown and State College -- the Pinckney Division co-leaders -- for the league's fourth and final playoff spot.
That means catching the IronBirds by the season's final series, a three-game set at Tri-City from Sept. 2-4, is the only way the Cyclones can remain in the chase to capture their first NY-Penn title since winning it all during their inaugural 2001 campaign on Surf Avenue.
This, That and the Other Thing: RHP Cameron Griffin, who posted a 3.77 ERA with five saves in 13 Gulf Coast League appearances this season, made his Cyclones debut following Frias out of the bullpen Wednesday night in S.I. The 22-year-old right-hander was impressive, striking out three over three hitless innings of relief. ... All-Star RHP John Gant was scheduled to toe the rubber in Thursday night's series finale against the Yankees. ... DH Matt Oberste, the offensive hero in Tuesday night's 2-0 win over the Bombers, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and grounded into a double play in Wednesday's loss, dropping his season average to .202. ... The Cyclones are 19-12 at home this season, and will play seven of their final 14 contests at MCU Park. ... In other local sports news, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will be opening The Citi Henrik Lundqvist Hockey ProCamp at Brooklyn's Aviator Sports Complex this weekend. The camp will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, creating an opportunity for 100 kids to learn various fundamental skills from the world's best netminder and Camp Director Adam Campbell.