ValleyCats rally to win for second straight night

The Tri-City ValleyCats' Denis Phipps connects for a double on Thursday.
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The Tri-City ValleyCats' Denis Phipps connects for a double on Thursday.

TROY — The Tri-City ValleyCats seem to be stuck in neutral gear.

They can’t seem to win more than two games in a row. They have had just one three-game winning streak (May 19-21). There have been a couple of games where they won two in a row. However, the ValleyCats haven’t gained any traction.

That could be changing. For the second straight game, the ValleyCats rallied to pull out a Frontier League win. After scoring three runs in the seventh inning of the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader to win 4-2, the ValleyCats overcame deficits of 7-0 and 10-8 Thursday to beat the Trois-Rivieres Aigles 12-10 at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.

It’s the fifth time that the ValleyCats (17-18), who are now 8-12 this month, have won at least two in a row.

“We find our groove, they find their groove,” said catcher Ciaran Devenney, who hit a solo homer in the eighth inning to give the ValleyCats some insurance. “It’s just sometimes they find their groove more than us. But I think the efforts we put in this past week, it’s going to set us on the right path going forward.”

The ValleyCats have an opportunity to get on a roll this weekend when they host the Frontier League’s travel team, the Empire State Greys, starting Friday night. The Greys, who play all of their games on the road, dropped to 0-34 Thursday night after a 13-0 loss to the New Jersey Jackals.

How bad are the Greys? They have been outscored 370-111. The team’s earned run average is 9.86. They have been shut out seven times. They have allowed 10 or more runs 15 times. They have had five one-run losses, the latest being a 5-4 setback to the Aigles in the first game of a doubleheader last Sunday.

Winning their last two games the way they did, coupled with a winless team coming to town, and you have the recipe for a five-game winning streak.

Of course, the ValleyCats are not falling into the trap of being overconfident.

“Baseball is baseball, and anything can happen on any given day,” said designated hitter Brad Zunica, whose grand slam highlighted a seven-run fifth inning that helped give the ValleyCats an 8-7 lead. “We just got to go out and play our game.”

It was a message echoed throughout the clubhouse because the ValleyCats have yet to get on a roll.

“It’s big to get a winning streak rolling,” said bench coach Thomas Incaviglia, who was running the team for his father Pete, who is away on a personal matter. “It’s just right around the corner. Guys are starting to play well. We’ve been playing good, we just haven’t been able to string them all together. But these guys never quit. They fight to the end, and we can play with anybody. We’ve just got to keep going and going and going.

“You can’t take any team lightly. Everybody’s tough. … You don’t look at the records. You look at it as just another team, another game. Just take it day by day, game by game.”

It also helps when you get contributions from new players.

Second baseman Jace Mercer, who began the season with the Windy City ThunderBolts, made his first start for the ValleyCats and made the most of it. He was 4 for 4 with three doubles, two runs scored and an RBI. He also walked.

His third double of the game drove in Willy Garcia with the tying run in the eighth. Mercer came home on Juan Silverio’s single.

In Wednesday’s second game of a doubleheader, Mercer had a sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning.

“Everybody wants to make a strong first impression, that’s a big part of it,” Mercer said. “But the biggest thing is just to have fun playing the game. We’re playing professional baseball, and it’s a blessing to be out here. It’s really putting that before anything, so that’s really was my mindset coming in today.”

NOTES

Pavin Parks also homered for the ValleyCats. His solo shot over the right-field fence triggered the seven-run fifth. … Silverio had two hits and three RBIs for the ValleyCats. …Reliever Brac Warren got the win by pitching a scoreless eighth. Trey Cochran-Gill was flawless in the ninth and got the save.

Trois-Rivieres 020 503 000 — 10 8 0

Tri-City 000 171 03x — 12 19 0

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