Southpaws Kyle Hallock and Matt Crouse pitched to a draw, each holding the opposing lineup without a run through six innings. Both bullpens kept the game that way through the eighth, but third baseman Jason King led off the ninth with a fly ball just over the visitors' bullpen, finally breaking the scoreless tie.
"I made a good pitch, but he's a good hitter, and he got good wood on it," said Mitchell Lambson, who retired the first six batters he faced before allowing King's blast. "Nothing you can do about that."
With two outs and a runner on base, Zach Maggard greeted Garrett Bullock with another homer to right field, giving the Tigers two insurance runs that would prove critical.
Facing a three-run deficit and down to their last out, the 'Cats battled back in the ninth. NYPL batting leader Matt Duffy stayed with an 0-2 pitch for an opposite-field single, and first baseman Zach Johnson followed with a double on another 0-2 count, plating Duffy. But closer Dan Bennett recovered to strike out Brandon Meredith to seal the victory.
Meredith, with two early singles, was the only ValleyCat with a multi-hit game.
Early on, it did not seem like Hallock would have a dominant outing. He gave up singles to the first two batters of the game and put two runners on with one out in the second inning, but the southpaw worked his way out of both jams.
Hallock, who fanned six batters on the evening, then retired ten consecutive batters. Chad Wright snapped the streak in the fifth inning, beating the throw from a diving John Hinson for a two-out infield single, but Hallock retired the next batter to end the frame.
"They swung a lot early, so the second and third times through the lineup, I had to make quality pitches early in the count," the lefty said. "Locating my fastball, that's mainly what I focused on ... you get someone ahead of the count, that's when you try to bury them with a fastball, curveball, changeup."
But Crouse matched Hallock step for step, allowing three runs in six scoreless innings of his own. No ValleyCats made it past first base against the Tigers' starter, who took the loss against Hallock and Tri-City in Connecticut five days ago.
Both sides threatened to score via the longball in the middle innings. Catcher Miles Hamblin - a teammate of Crouse's at Ole Miss this spring - crushed a fastball well over the right-field fence, landing by the tennis courts some 100 feet beyond the boundary. But the ball was ruled just foul, and Hamblin eventually went down on strikes.
The very next batter was King, who led off the top of the sixth with a hard drive deep to right, the pivotal location on the field this evening. Drew Muren got a good read on the ball, timed his steps on the warning track and leaped to snare the line drive, which he said would have been a home run had he not caught it.
The ValleyCats struck out ten batters, reaching double digits for the fourth consecutive game. Even with a long ninth inning, the game was over in a brisk two hours and five minutes, easily the ValleyCats' fastest contest of the season.
The loss snaps a three-game win streak for the 'Cats, who swept Lowell at home earlier this week. The Tigers returns to Joe Bruno Stadium tomorrow at 7 p.m. Nick Tropeano starts against Tyler Barrett, a rematch of Tuesday's 5-2 Connecticut victory.