|It was bike giveaway night for the Batavia Lions Club at Dwyer Stadium. The winners were sisters Ashlyn and Veronica (on bike) Reynolds, of Le Roy, and Landon Brown, of Henrietta. Don Milleman, left, chaired the event for Lions and Tony Scalia is club president. (Photo and game photos by Howard Owens.)
Coming into Tuesday night’s doubleheader against the Vermont Lake Monsters (22-26), the Batavia Muckdogs (19-28) had lost two games back-to-back and were on the verge of losing all hope of getting within striking distance of the last wild card spot.
Brett Lilek and Scout Squier, who would combine to start both games of a doubleheader for the second straight home series, were tasked to keep the Muckdogs' slim playoffs hopes alive as Batavia looked to capture their sixth consecutive series win.
Lilek started the first game of the doubleheader and continued right where he left off from his last start. Back on August 5, Lilek pitched five innings; striking out eight while allowing four hits in an eventual Muckdogs win over State College. On Tuesday night, Lilek was equally as impressive, if not better.
“The guys went out there [Lilek and Squier] and pounded the strike zone, threw strikes and kept the game going for us,” Manager Angel Espada said.
Lilek dominated the strike zone all evening and kept the Lake Monster hitters off balance with is off-speed pitches. He was able to retire 15 of the 17 batters he faced in his five innings of work. Lilek recorded seven strikeouts on just 61 pitches thrown. He only allowed one hit in the first inning and walked one other batter.
Lilek got all the run support he would need in the first. All-Star Anfernee Seymour started the game with a walk. He moved to third after Vermont pitcher Kevin Duchene attempted to pickoff Seymour but he took off for second on Duchene’s first move. Chris Iriart, Vermont’s first baseman, then threw the ball into the outfield in an attempt to get Seymour out at second, giving Seymour third base.
Travis Brewster then singled home Seymour for his eighth RBI of the year. Stone Garrett, also an All-Star, then doubled off the wall to score Brewster. On the attempt to throw Brewster out at home, Garrett tried to take third and was called out. After the play, the umpires got together and pointed to Garrett, who had gone into the dugout, that he was safe and to go back to third. Brad Haynal then grounded out to shortstop to score Garrett, making it 3-0.
“The hard work is paying off and we have been blessed that every time we have had a tough game, the rain out kind of gives us a breather,” Espada said.
The Muckdogs added another run in the fourth inning and two in the fifth inning, but they were just added bonuses. Lilek and Jordan Hillyer combined to throw seven innings of one-hit baseball. Each giving up one walk a piece, in total they only allowed three base runners all game, retiring 12 batters in a row at one point and not allowing a runner to pass second base.
The Muckdogs took game one of the doubleheader with a final score of 6-0. Garrett led the offensive going 2-for-4 with a RBI and two runs scored.
Not to be out done, Squier was just as impressive in game two as Lilek was in game one. Just like he did back on Aug. 5, Squier followed up a quality start from Lilek with one of his own.
Squier, whose only real trouble of the game came in the first inning, was able to shut down the Vermont offense, also pitching five innings.
Trace Loehr led off the game with a single. Steven Pallares then reached on an error by third baseman Angel Reyes. Squier was able to strike out two of the next three batters and get another to fly out to end the inning.
The Muckdogs again jumped on the Lake Monsters right from the start. Alex Fernandez reached on an E5 and Brewster quickly singled. A bad throw into the infield by the center fielder, allowed both runners to move up 90 feet. Garrett worked a walk to load the bases with no outs.
Haynal then grounded into a double play, but Fernandez was able to score to make it 1-0. Roy Morales grounded out to end the inning but not before the Muckdogs got the only run they would need.
“In both games the difference was the first inning,” Espada said. “We got a big inning the first game and we scored the only run in the first inning there.”
Squier settled down after the first inning and retired the next nine of out 10 batters. After his five outstanding innings, All-Star reliever and closer Steve Farnworth came into the game for the six-out save.
Farnworth worked pretty uneventful sixth and seventh innings to earn his 10 save of the year, sealing the 1-0 victory for Batavia and taking the series.
“We have been playing a lot better defense and we are making clutch plays…and that’s the difference right now,” Espada said. “We are pitching okay and besides the game the other day, we have been playing good defense.”
After his win in the first game, Lilek improves to 1-2 while Squier quietly continues to impress with a 4-0 record.
The Muckdogs will welcome the Lowell Spinners, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, to Dwyer Stadium on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. for an extremely important series in terms of the wild card race. Lowell currently sits atop the wild card standings and with a strong showing in the three-game series, the Muckdogs could play themselves right back into playoff contention, as they only sit five games back.
Although the importance of the series cannot be denied or overlooked, Espada is not looking ahead.
“I’m not looking that far. I’m just keeping the guys focused on one game at a time and eventually if you do that, things will take care of themselves,” Espada said. “You don’t want to put that pressure on them, they are so young, that they don’t understand and try to do too much.”