Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thunder comeback falls short

For The Trentonian
TRENTON — It may have been quick, but it sure wasn’t painless. In fact, it was almost historic.
One night after Trenton’s most frustrating loss of the year, Bowie Baysox starter Jake Pettit flirted with a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings, shutting down the Thunder en route to a 3-2 loss on Saturday night in front of 7,657 fans at Waterfront Park in just 2 hours and 24 minutes.

“I didn’t even really get nervous, I thought I would,” said Pettit of his no-hit bid.

“It was pretty cool going into the eighth inning, I thought I had it in the bag. It crossed my mind the whole game. If you’ve got a no-hitter going, you want to see how long you can take it.”

So “infuriated” by his team’s “uninspired” 12-6 loss on Friday that he was afraid to address his team after the game in fear of saying something he might regret, Thunder manager Tony Franklin’s message to his team was simple prior to Saturday’s game: “Play better baseball.”

It didn’t seem like that message got through, at least not through the first seven innings, but the veteran skipper was pleased with his team’s effort overall, perhaps largely in part to a ninth-inning comeback that fell a Kevin Mahoney bases-loaded strikeout short.

“I hope (the message got across), but what I want is the effort like we got tonight every night,” Franklin said.

“It’s going to take a monumental effort on our part, we can’t just rely on what we’ve done the past four months.  We need very good efforts each and every night for the remainder of the season to finish this thing off, and I think we got a pretty good effort tonight.” 

The loss, combined with New Britain splitting a doubleheader and Reading winning on Saturday cut 
Trenton’s Eastern Division lead to four games over the Rock Cats, with the Phillies just one game behind them with just 16 games remaining.

As for Pettit, the southpaw breezed through his first five innings, needing just 59 pitches to hold 
Trenton completely off the scoreboard.  Only a Luke Murton hit by pitch in the second inning — one that barely grazed his jersey — kept Pettit from facing the minimum.  

After a 1-2-3 sixth, Pettit, whose previous season-high in innings was 6 1/3 through 21 outings this season, blew through that with a five-pitch seventh, getting him just six outs away from history with just 75 pitches under his belt.

A former 42nd-round draft choice of Baltimore, Pettit got to within five outs of the first no-hitter thrown against Trenton since the May 21, 2009 perfect game of Akron’s Jeanmar Gomez when he induced a Murton groundout, but it ended one batter later.  

On Pettit’s 83rd pitch of the night, Addison Maruszak stroked a 2-2, 83 mile-per-hour slider — one that Pettit said he tried to throw inside that caught too much of the plate — off the batter’s eye in center field to break up the no-no and put Trenton within one run.  

“Not only was it a no-hitter, but it was a close game,” Maruszak said.  “It was an OK pitch, but it caught too much of the plate, he’s right. I just happened to put a good swing on it and just connected with it.”

Afterward, Pettit slammed his glove in frustration, but left to a nice round of applause two batters later after he issued a two-out walk to J.R. Murphy.

“That was pretty cool, I didn’t expect that,” Pettit said.  

Nor did the Thunder expect such an effort from their unfamiliar foe.

“This was the first time we’ve seen him,” Maruszak said. “He was effective because he was spotting up with his fastball, and when he missed, he missed barely.  So even if we take and it’s a ball, in our mind, we’re going, ‘Oooh, that was a close pitch.’  I think that’s just what he did, and he just mixed well.  The first time we saw him, everybody was a tad out in front, a tad late and he just did a real good job. He pitched extremely well tonight.”

Ronnie Welty hit what turned out to be the game-winning solo home run in the top of the ninth off 
Thunder reliever Ryan Pope to add some much-needed padding to the lead. Kyler Newby recorded the last out of the eighth without issue, but things got hairy in the ninth. Newby issued back-to-back one-out walks to Adonis Garcia and David Adams, but recovered with a Zoilo Almonte strikeout. 

But as has been the case all year, Trenton wouldn’t go down without a fight, and Murton sent a single through the left side to score Garcia and make it a 3-2 game.

After Shane Brown pinch-ran for Murton at first, Newby walked Maruszak on four pitches, putting it all up to Mahoney. But after taking a borderline 1-2 inside fastball called for a ball, he struck out on the next pitch, sealing the victory for the Baysox.

“We had everything right there on the table there in the ninth inning, and I all I can ask for is a heck of an effort to try to come back in the ballgame like that,” Franklin said.  “We battled like crazy, but we just had a heck of a game pitched against us.”

Despite the loss, the same confidence that carried the Thunder so far this year remains in the home clubhouse deep into the season.

“I thought we were going to win it, I thought for sure,” Maruszak said.  “I had all the confidence in the world in Mahoney right there.  He didn’t get a hit, but I still would like him up almost every time, that guy is so clutch when he gets into those situations.  (Our confidence) is still there, it’s just that we just didn’t pull it off again tonight.”


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