BROOKLYN, NY – MCU Park is the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Situated on Surf Avenue in Coney Island, the ballpark sits three blocks from the iconic Nathan’s famous hot dog restaurant and on Sunday the Cyclones commemorated that legacy by renaming the team “The Coney Island Franks” for one game in honor of Nathan’s 100th anniversary. The newly minted Franks showed persistence, coming from behind down 4-0 to defeat the Connecticut Tigers 5-4 and snap a four-game losing streak.
Winners of their last four games, the Tigers relished the opportunity to sweep the series and a chance to sweep the Franks. The Tigers created separation in a major way, sending ten batters to the plate in the second inning against Coney Island starter Harol Gonzalez and scored four runs in the second inning. First baseman Tanner Donnels, the son of 1987 Mets first round draft pick Chris Donnels, opened the scoring with an RBI single.
Shortstop Junnell Ledezma, batting .107 entering Sunday’s play, followed with a two-run double and the Tigers’ bats provided an early offensive jolt. “His (Gonzalez’s) stuff was there in every inning except for the second,” Franks’ manager Tom Gamboa said. “The second inning was such an aberration that I don’t even know how to explain it because he’s got so much poise and composure. Better than anybody on that staff.”
Trailing by four runs, catcher Ali Sanchez, playing his first game since June 20, doubled and scored the first of two runs for the Franks in the third inning to shave the Tigers’ margin in half. Sanchez hit safely in each of three at-bats on the afternoon, as he looked to catch up on lost time. “We want him to play a lot, but he has the fewest at-bats of anybody on the club. It was nice to see him contribute with the double and going the other way,” Gamboa explained.
Despite the second inning blemish, Gonzalez recorded 9 of his first 12 outs via the strikeout, including fanning the side in both the third and the fourth inning. Gonzalez would strike out ten in 4.2 innings of work, retiring the last ten batters he faced. “He’s a big leaguer mentally. In innings 3, 4, and 5, he was on cruise control. Harol has an amazing ability to see a hitter one time and know how much to take off and put on a pitch to get a hitter off balance.”
Sanchez added his second hit against Connecticut starter Alfred Guttierrez, leading to an Arnaldo Berrios sacrifice fly, scoring Jacob Zanon and cutting the deficit to 4-3 after five innings of play. After eating away at the lead, the Franks took a bite out of the scoreboard with two runs in the sixth for their first lead of the game at 5-4 on a Blake Tiberi RBI triple to right and a Jacob Zanon single to score Tiberi. “I have been pressing lately. I have taken a few weeks off since college ball to recharge. I am still getting adjusted to this level of pitching and not try to think so much,” Tiberi said.
Gutierrez would last six innings for the Tigers, allowing nine hits and five runs for his second loss of the season. Staked to a one-run lead, Franks’ relievers Dillon Becker, Gary Cornish, Austin McGeorge, and Taylor Henry combined for 4.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen and preserved the hard-fought victory. “Cornish and McGeorge come with reputations of being top-notch college pitchers. Unfortunately, for us, they are limited to one inning every four days for their protection, so it’s nice to take advantage in a game where he has the lead,” said Gamboa.
Returning to their more familiar moniker, the Cyclones will travel to Batavia, New York for a three-game series against the Muckdogs. The club expects to have 2016 first round draft pick Justin Dunn make his professional debut on Monday, pitching just one inning after incurring heavier workloads for Boston College. Dunn features a fastball reaching 97 miles per hour and impressed Mets’ scouts with his transition from a middling reliever to a dominant starting pitcher in his junior season.