"We got them down early and we didn't put them away," manager Stubby Clapp said. "We let them trickle back, we gave them some runs on errors, and it came back to bite us."
Through the middle innings, there was much action everywhere except the scoreboard. Each team had at least one hit in seven of the first eight frames but neither could convert them into runs, leaving a combined 21 runners on base for the game.
Shortstop Bryce Orgeta floated a double to the right-field corner to lead off the ninth inning, the first extra-base hit for the visitors after 10 singles. Matt Skole's grounder went through shortstop Jacke Healey's legs, putting runners on the corners with nobody out.
Mitch Lambson fanned Justin Miller for the first out, but Russell Moldenhauer followed with a deep fly ball to center field. Although Justin Gominsky ran it down on the warning track, Ortega trotted home with the go-ahead run.
After two meek groundouts, Zach Johnson pulled a line drive towards the line. Left fielder Caleb Ramsey, playing much deeper than usual to prevent doubles, ranged to his left and ran it down near the warning track, sealing the one-run victory.
The 'Cats fall to 4-10 in one-run games this season.
"I don't really have an answer for that," said third baseman Matt Duffy, who went 3-for-4. "You just have to finish games, play good defense and pitch well. It's not going to happen every time, but the more consistent you can be, the better off you're going to be."
Tri-City racked up 11 hits and drew four walks, but the hosts left 10 runners on base. The struggles peaked in the third inning, when three straight singles loaded the bases with no outs. Drew Muren struck out and Brandon Meredith grounded into a double play, sending the 'Cats down empty-handed.
"It's not fun when you have the bases loaded and you don't score a run," Clapp said. "We had a chance to put a nail in the coffin quick, and we let it go."
The Doubledays began their comeback in the very next inning. Starter Nick Tropeano got two quick outs, but he then allowed a single to Angelberth Montilla and threw away a pickoff attempt, advancing the runner to third. Jeremy Mayo followed with a single, bringing home the visitors' first run.
The next batter, center fielder Billy Burns, hit a ground ball that skipped off a rough patch and over Healey's glove. Mayo took third on the hit and scored on a wild pitch, closing the gap to one.
The 'Cats had more chances, putting at least one runner in scoring position every inning until the ninth. But they always came out with nothing to show for it.
"We got up on them early and felt like all the momentum was on our side," said third baseman Matt Duffy, who went 3-for-4. "They clawed their way back, and we have to give them credit, but it was a tough game."
Tri-City jumped out to an early first-inning lead on Duffy's two-out double to right-center, which cleared Justin Gominsky and Miles Hamblin from the bases. Brandon Meredith put his surprising speed to use in the second inning after a leadoff walk, stealing second and taking third on a wild throw before scoring on Ryan McCurdy's single.
But the 'Cats would not score again. Three Tri-City pitchers combined to strike out 14 batters against three walks, but the Doubledays racked up 11 hits.
The ValleyCats return to Joe Bruno Stadium on Sunday, hoping to close July on a high note. On "Sunday Funday," kids can enjoy a pregame stretch and catch on the field and run the bases after the final pitch. The game begins at 5 p.m.