TROY — A half-dozen kids bolted down the hill hoping to be first to the ball, which was bruised, scuffed and not-so-white — but it was a home-run ball.
Yes, the sight of that race for the Tri-City ValleyCats’ Juan Silverio’s sixth-inning, game-tying long ball Friday over the left-field bullpen, plus the glee and cheers of 2,500 fans, meant one thing: ’Cats baseball at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium was back.
Moments like that chase for a home-run ball were the highlights of the ValleyCats’ home opener as a Frontier League squad.
The game, after all, didn’t exactly go the way the home team was hoping.
After Silverio’s blast, the contest quickly got away from the ValleyCats, as the visiting New Jersey Jackals broke the game open against the ValleyCats’ bullpen to secure a 17-2 victory. The team’s bullpen gave up 15 runs, 13 earned, over the last three innings, leaving ValleyCats’ manager Pete Incaviglia to lament after the game that he’d wished his team had produced a better showing in its first home game since 2019, and described himself as the “most embarrassed” he’d ever been as a manager.
“No doubt,” he said. “First game, you want to make a good impression and you want to show the people you brought a good product on the field, and it was a pretty good game in the sixth inning — and, then, [we] brought a couple guys in and it got worse and it got worse.”
For fans such as Keegan Kreplin, 8, from Ballston Spa, though, it was still a memorable, fun night. He’d made his first trip to “The Joe” during the 2019 season with his dad Dean and younger sister Emersyn, but couldn’t make a return trip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling that year’s Minor League Baseball season, which ended up the last year of the ValleyCats’ affiliation with the Houston Astros.
Keegan’s mom Esther came along this time and said watching Friday’s game was fantastic, despite the team’s woes on the field.
“I mean, they’re enjoying it immensely — to be able to come out, see other kids that have the same interests and have a good time,” she said of her children. “There’s kids dancing around the stands to the music, and they’re having a great time.”
On the field, the ValleyCats didn’t have a great time in losing their sixth consecutive game to fall to 1-6 on the season. The team has had six players purchased by Major League Baseball clubs since the start of the season, and is currently short-handed in the bullpen. After Carlos Sano gave up two runs on six hits over the first six innings, that wart was exposed.
The struggles began immediately as Ryan McKay hit the first batter he faced in the seventh, proceeded to load the bases, then gave up two runs before being pulled in the middle of the inning. The Jackals scored two runs in the seventh, then added nine in the eighth and four in the ninth.
“There was a lot of energy. I think there was a lot of energy in a lot of our games. But, that energy has to translate into wins and playing the game the right way,” Incaviglia said. “When you continue to go out and beat yourself, and that’s what we’ve done, we’ve walked people, we’ve thrown wild pitches, we’ve booted balls, and we haven’t swung the bats, we really haven’t gotten going.”
The Jackals scored their 17 runs on 16 hits from nine different hitters. Jason Agresti led the way going 4 for 5 and scoring three runs. Russ Olive went 2 for 5 with a home run and four RBIs, moving him to eight on the year and into a tie for third-most in the Frontier League. In addition, Justin Wylie and Riley Mihalik both contributed two hits and three RBIs.
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