"We need to have some big innings," manager Jim Pankovits said. For the most part, we've been in pretty much every game, and if we had a hit here or there, we'd be okay."
It seemed as if Tri-City had solved its hitting woes this weekend, racking up a combined 15 runs and 18 hits on Friday and Saturday. But for the second time in a week, it had no answer for Cervenka. The southpaw, who held the 'Cats to one run on two hits in his first outing, frustrated Tri-City even more on Sunday afternoon. He struck out five batters in a row early on and was perfect through two innings.
The ValleyCats loaded the bases with no outs in the third inning on a walk, hit batsman and error. Enrique Hernandez brought home Renzo Tello on a fielder's choice, but Cervenka stranded the other runners in scoring position.
First baseman Nick Stanley finally broke up the no-hit bid with a bloop single to left field in the fifth inning. Cervenka, who had already surpassed his pitch count, was immediately taken out of the game.
The hosts could do no better against reliever Stephen Fox, the eventual winning pitcher. Fox fanned the next two hitters to get out of the inning and retired the first ten batters he faced in order. Tri-City would manage only three hits and two walks for the game.
Meanwhile, the Lowell offense picked up in the middle innings, exacting revenge on a ValleyCat bullpen that shut out the Spinners in the previous game. Lowell tagged righty David Martinez for three runs on four hits in the fifth, breaking a 1-1 tie. Right fielder Brandon Jacobs delivered the final blow, a line-drive double to the center-field wall that brought home two runners.
The visitors tagged Brendan Stines for two insurance runs in the seventh. Jose Garcia hit his first homer of the year, a one-out line drive into the visitors' bullpen. Two batters later, Miles Head doubled home Kolbrin Vitek with the Spinners' sixth run.
Lowell ripped three more base hits in the eighth, tacking on another score and leaving the bases loaded. The Spinners outhit Tri-City 14-3 on the game.
The ValleyCats finally scored again in the ninth inning when Ben Heath hit a one-out homer over the left-field bullpen, his second longball of the season. But it was too little, too late, as Fox retired the final two batters on ground balls.
"We've kind of struggled as a team and hit well as a team," Heath said. But I'm confident in all our guys. It's still early, and hopefully we can put it together."
Tri-City (4-6) now goes back on the road for a three-game series against Vermont (7-3). The Lake Spinners took two of three games at Joe Bruno Stadium earlier this week. The ValleyCats will start dominating right-hander Carlos Quevedo (0-0, 1.74) against Taylor Jordan (0-0, 1.86).