Sunday, May 13, 2018

RailRiders Take Series in Syracuse with Shootout

Story and photo by Corey Crisan

Syracuse, N.Y. –  The Syracuse Chiefs' May struggles continued on Wednesday. Having lost six of its last seven games entering the day, the Chiefs looked to bounce back to take a home series from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

It took less than 20 minutes until we saw runs on the board in the top of the first inning. The RailRiders used a five-run inning and then some off of Chiefs starter Cesar Vargas to help secure the 8-7 series win.

Pitch Count

Vargas used nine pitches to get Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s first two batters out, but it took 21 to get through the next six batters – five of which scored. It started with Clint Frazier’s double over center fielder Matt Reynolds’ head. Mike Ford drew a walk to follow. Adam Lind then stepped in a roped a single down the first base line to score Frazier and give the RailRiders a 1-0 lead.

Two pitches later, Kyle Higashioka singled up the middle to score Ford. Then, RailRiders No. 7 hitter Zack Zehner launched a three-run home run over the left-center field fence to blow the lead out to 5-0 in the top of the first inning.

Vargas bounced back for a 10-pitch top of the second inning, and Syracuse rewarded him with a run to cut Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s deficit. Jacob Wilson knocked a double over RailRiders center fielder Shane Robinson with one out. Irving Falu struck out to follow. With two outs, Spencer Kieboom singled to bring in Wilson.

Full Steam Ahead

The Chiefs tied the game in the third inning. They posted four runs, all with two outs on the board. Rafael Bautista led off with a single. After Adrian Sanchez flew out and Jose Marmolejos popped out, the Chiefs offense went to work.

Newcomer Mark Reynolds walked, and Matt Reynolds (no relation) began a string of four consecutive run-producing hits for the Chiefs. Matt Reynolds brought in Bautista with a double off the right field wall. Jacob Wilson then roped a single off the glove of RailRiders third baseman Bruce Caldwell.

Irving Falu and Spencer Kieboom followed with consecutive RBI singles to tie the game at 5-5 after three innings.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre regained the lead in the fourth inning. Zack Zehner walked to start the inning. Bruce Caldwell then doubled in Zehner from first to regain the lead, 6-5 to the RailRiders’ favor.

Neither starting pitcher survived past the fifth inning on Wednesday. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starter Chance Adams was pulled after 2 2/3 innings and Chiefs starter Cesar Vargas was given the hook after 4 1/3 innings.

Back and Forth

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre added insurance in the sixth inning. L.J. Mazzilli, Tyler Wade, and Shane Robinson singled consecutively with one out. Clint Frazier smoked a single off the glove of Chiefs third baseman Gengie Gonzalez. Everybody was safe on the fielding error, including Mazzilli, who scored to give the RailRiders a 7-5 lead.

In a wild fashion, Syracuse tied the game at 7-7 in the bottom of the sixth. Kieboom and Gonzalez drew consecutive walks to start. Rafael Bautista stepped in and dropped a bunt down. SWB relief pitcher Joe Harvey threw the ball to third base to try and get the lead runner out, but the throw was wide. Kieboom scored from third, and Bengie Gonzalez motored home from first base to tie the game on the throwing error.

The RailRiders responded in the top of the seventh inning to re-take the lead. Adam Lind led off with a double down the left field line. Kyle Higashioka then singled, advancing Lind to third. Two batters later, Bruce Caldwell singled in Lind to give Scranton/Wilkes-Barre an 8-7 lead, which is how this one ended on Wednesday.

The two teams combined for 15 runs on 24 hits.

Syracuse’s offense went cold in the final three innings. The Chiefs mustered just two baserunners in that span, and neither of them advanced past first base.

Syracuse has now lost seven of its last eight games, dating back to May 2 at Lehigh Valley. The Chiefs drop back to an even 15-15 record on the season after starting 13-9 in the month of April.

What’s Next

Syracuse welcomes the Pawtucket Red Sox into town for a four-game series over the weekend. Syracuse’s Tommy Milone is slated to oppose Pawtucket’s William Cuevas on Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. at NBT Bank Stadium.

Syracuse Crunch Swept by Toronto in Calder Cup Second Round

Story and photo by Corey Crisan

Syracuse, N.Y. -- The Syracuse Crunch’s Eastern Conference title defense ended on Tuesday at the hands of the Toronto Marlies. Following a 7-1 beatdown of the Crunch on Sunday, the Marlies capped the series off with a 2-1 win on Tuesday in Syracuse. It was somewhat of a revenge series for the Marlies, as Syracuse beat Toronto in seven games in the second round of last year’s playoffs.

Toronto used two Syracuse penalties to jump ahead to a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period. Syracuse’s Ben Thomas went off for holding with 15:40 remaining in the period. It took 32 seconds from that point for the Marlies to get on the board with its first power play goal of the game. Marlies left winger Dmytro Timashov rifled one past Crunch goaltender Connor Ingram, with help from right winger Ben Smith and center Chris Mueller, to give Toronto a 1-0 lead with 15:08 to play in the period.

Converting the Power Play

The Crunch squandered its second power play opportunity a few minutes later, attempting just one shot on goal in the two-minute span. Less than a minute after Toronto was back at full strength, Syracuse’s Alex Gallant laid a big hit on Marlies defenseman Justin Holl, ensuing a small scrum in the right corner of Toronto’s end.

Gallant was assessed a five-minute major penalty and was given a 10-minute game misconduct penalty in addition. Toronto took advantage.

With 1:31 left on the power play, Marlies left winger Andreas Johnsson netted a slap shot from inside the blue line to give Toronto a 2-0 lead with 5:04 left in the period. Defenseman Timothy Liljegren and left winger Pierre Engvall assisted on the goal.

Toronto converted both of its power play chances in the period. Syracuse went 0-for-2 on such chances. Toronto out-shot Syracuse, 10-9, in the first.

The second period was quite the opposite of the first period for the Crunch. Right winger Mathieu Joseph was whistled for hooking at the 13:01 mark, but that was the only advantage the Marlies were given throughout the second. Even so, Toronto could not get a shot on goal during the power play.
A 4-on-4 chance came by 16 seconds after Joseph’s penalty ended. Syracuse’s Dominik Mason and Toronto’s Carl Grundstrom were called for incidental roughing penalties. Toronto put two shots on goal against Syracuse, but Ingram gloved one and smothered the deflection of the other.

Toronto out-shot Syracuse, 9-4, in the second, but no goals were scored in the period.

Syracuse killed a Toronto power play chance with 14:37 to play. Shortly after, Syracuse missed on a breakaway opportunity by center Mitchell Stephens. He threw a shot attempt to the top right shelf of the net, but Marlies goaltender Garret Sparks made the shoulder pad save.

Time to Rally

Syracuse was rewarded later in the period.

Defenseman Reid McNeill buried a slap shot from between the circles to cut Toronto’s lead to 2-1 with 9:31 to play in regulation. Centers Kevin Lynch and Carter Verhaeghe assisted on the goal.

Syracuse pulled goaltender Connor Ingram with 1:40 left in regulation. The Crunch attempted two shots on goal following, but Sparks did not allow Syracuse to tie the game.

Sparks stopped 21 of 22 Crunch shots en route to the Marlies’ 2-1 victory. Toronto completed the 4-0 sweep of the Crunch and will face the winner of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Charlotte Checkers series in the Calder Cup’s Eastern Conference Final.

Syracuse finishes the 2017-18 season with a 24-12-2-1 record at the War Memorial and finished second-place in the AHL’s North Division. They finished in fourth-place overall in the Eastern Conference. Syracuse swept the Rochester Americans, 3-0, in the first round of the playoffs before being swept 4-0 by the Marlies.

Red Wings Earn First 2018 Win Over Syracuse

Story and photo by Corey Crisan

Syracuse, N.Y. – A dominant performance from Aaron Slegers helped boost the Rochester Red Wings to a 2-0 rain-soaked win over the Syracuse Chiefs on Saturday at NBT Bank Stadium. 

The Red Wings earned its first win in five tries against the Chiefs this season because of solid pitching from Slegers and reliever Nick Anderson and Gabriel Moya. The two combined to shut down the Chiefs, allowing just four hits.

The Red Wings plated its first run in the top of the second inning, thanks to three consecutive singles. Brock Stassi and Jermaine Curtis converted back-to-back singles to start the frame, then James Ramsey brought in Stassi with… you guessed it, a single. Rochester continued to threaten to score as Bobby Wilson sacrificed Curtis and Ramsey over to third and second. Gregorio Petit popped out and Nick Buss grounded out to quell the threat.

That was all of the game’s scoring until the eighth inning. Syracuse had a couple of chances to tie the game up. Slegers allowed just two Syracuse runners to reach second base in his six innings of work, but the Chiefs failed to capitalize on those situations in the fourth and sixth innings.

Rochester reliever Nick Anderson entered the game and struck out all three Chiefs batters in the seventh inning. Syracuse had two runners on base with two outs in the eighth and then again in the ninth, but runners failed to reach third base in each instance.

Rochester added an insurance run in the eighth inning off of Chiefs reliever Jimmy Cordero. Bobby Wilson ripped a double to the center field wall past a shallow-playing Hunter Jones to start the frame. Petit then sacrificed him over to third. Buss then flew out to shallow right field as Wilson held at third. Wilson then scored on a wild pitch by Cordero to extend the Rochester lead to 2-0.

Once again, Syracuse had a chance to tie or win the game in the ninth inning. Spencer Kieboom walked to start the inning. Jacob Wilson then grounded into the hole between short and third, but Gregorio Petit’s running grab and throw was enough to get Kieboom out at second. Michael Almanzar followed with a single, setting up runners on first and second with one out.
Tuffy Gosewisch popped out to Red Wings catcher Bobby Wilson behind home plate. The Chiefs’ final chance in Bengie Gonzalez struck out swinging on three pitches to end the game. The Red Wings earned the 2-0 win, its first victory over Syracuse in 2018.

On a bright note for Syracuse, outfielder Alejandro De Aza continued to stay hot at the plate. His 2-for-3 day and single in the bottom of the first inning extended his on-base streak to 18 games. He entered Saturday second in the International League in batting average (.359) and was tied for third in hits (23). De Aza is a 34-year old veteran who has spent 11 seasons in the Major Leagues, and has been in professional baseball for 16 seasons.

What’s Next

Syracuse (12-8) and Rochester (8-10) will conclude its series on Sunday at NBT Bank Stadium. Syracuse’s Austin Voth is slated to oppose Rochester’s Dietrich Enns. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m.