BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Broadcaster Al Michaels famously said after Game of the 1988 NLCS, “When you write the story of this game, where do you begin?” Since Opening Day last Friday, the Brooklyn Cyclones were trying to answer that question after playing an unprecedented 56 innings in four games, including three extra inning affairs. Monday’s game kept that theme in check as the Cyclones fell to the Tri-City ValleyCats 10-9 in 17 innings after six hours and five minutes of baseball.
A battle of southpaws took the mound when the game began shortly after 7 PM with Joel Huertas making his Cyclones’ debut against Brett Adcock, a fourth round pick by the Houston Astros out of Michigan. Huertas appeared in control for much of the night, limiting a potent ValleyCats offense to seven hits and four runs (three earned) in 5.2 inning. Facing an early jam with runners at the corners in the second inning, Huertas escaped unscathed, retiring former Tulane catcher Jake Rogers on a 5-4-3 double play.
Limited to 30 pitches, Adcock gave way to Ricardo Castro and the Tri-City bullpen after an inning plus with one run attached to his line on an RBI single by Hengelbert Rojas to open the scoring in the 2nd inning. The lead quickly changed hands, when the ValleyCats scored two, headlined by a Daz Cameron double and run scored.
The Cyclones, who had difficulty producing runs during the early portion of the season took advantage in the third inning, evening the score on Jacob Zannon’s first RBI of the year.
Spearheading Tri-City at the plate during the season’s first week is DH Carmen Benedetti, and in the sixth inning he answered with a two run double for his second hit off Huertas and his ninth hit in his first 16 at-bats. Benedetti’s two out double ended Huertas’s night, as the ValleyCats took a two run lead.
The Cyclones showed persistence once again, and took the lead, scoring four runs in the sixth inning to take the lead, capped off by Helgelbert Rojas’s second RBI of the evening and a two run double by Nick Sergakis, who led the Cyclones five hits in eight at-bats, including four extra base hits. “Obviously, this was his best game of the three he’s played,” Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said. “He’s a gutty guy and has done a great job for us.”
The Cyclones’ bullpen could not hold the lead, however, allowing single runs in both the seventh and eighth innings, capped off by a game-tying double from Rogers for the fifth tie or lead change of the night.
Like their opening series against the rival Staten Island Yankees, the drama and intensity built with each successive frame. Despite ample opportunities on both sides, the Cyclones and ValleyCats played into the wee hours of Tuesday morning with the score tied 6-6 until the 17th inning when Cyclones infielder Santo Marte surrendered four runs in his second inning of relief. Cameron, who struck out in five consecutive plate appearances, singled home two runs to the jubilation of the ValleyCats’ dugout. Stephen Wrenn followed Cameron’s hit with a massive two run home run over the LF wall.
The four run cushion appeared enough for Tri-City, but the comeback kids in Brooklyn made things interesting scoring three runs in their final at-bat before catcher Brandon Brosher struck out looking with two runners in scoring position for his third strikeout of the night as the Cyclones fell to 1-3 in an instant classic at MCU Park. “The biggest problem since we got Brandon is a lack of contact. He’s made a nice transition to catcher, but he’s had difficulty making contact at the plate,” said Gamboa.
Averaging 14 innings in their first four games, the Cyclones will add some reinforcements to their roster before the final game of the series against the ValleyCats, in the form of 2016 draft picks Colby Woodmansee and Gene Cone. Fatigued and battered, the Cyclones have played two of the four longest games in franchise history at MCU Park and with a road trip to Connecticut to follow on Wednesday, Gamboa explains that rest is vital for his young ballclub. “It is more important for the guys to get their physical rest, because they are tired as they should be. Playing 56 innings in a span of four games. I have never seen this in any level. It’s unheard of.”