On a historic night in Troy, it was ultimately a wild play in extra innings that completed a game-long comeback victory for the ValleyCats, seeking to avoid a third straight loss. A wild pitch on a swinging strike three in the bottom of the 10th allowed Thomas Lindauer to score from third, as the 'Cats knocked off the Spinners, 5-4.
However, the ValleyCats win was overshadowed by the professional debut of Tri-City starter and 2013 MLB Draft #1 overall pick Mark Appel. Appearing in a game for the first time since being drafted by the Astros on June 6th, Appel went two innings while pitching under a 30-pitch limit. He threw 26 pitches while allowing three hits and two runs in the outing.
On the first pitch of the game, Lowell shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin drilled a fastball from Appel over James Ramsay's head in center for a triple. Lin was driven in on a grounder to give Lowell a quick 1-0 lead. After back to back singles from Kevin Mager and Aaron King put runners on the corners with one out, a slow roller back to Appel off the bat of Carlos Asuaje allowed the second run of the inning to cross home plate.
Appel settled down after that, however. After getting Cleuluis Rendon to strike out looking to end the first, Appel needed just seven pitches to fire a 1-2-3 second inning. Despite the shaky first inning, the Stanford righty said that he was pleased overall with the outing.
"It wasn't my best, but it wasn't my worst. I think it's a good starting point for the rest of the season," Appel said postgame. "I was glad to get out there and get my feet wet, and get my work in, because that's what it's about right now."
Eight innings after Appel departed, it was a most unconventional of plays that wound being the difference in the Tri-City win in front of a sellout crowd of 5,854, the second straight night with a sellout. With two outs and Thomas Lindauer on third in the 10th, Luis Alvarez swung and missed on a 1-2 slider from Kyle Martin (1-1) that got passed Lowell catcher David Sopilka, allowing the winning run to score from third.
It was the first time in the game that the 'Cats had led, as they overcame deficits of 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3 to come back to win their first extra inning game of the season at home. The 'Cats tied the game up for the first time in the 3rd, as two straight two-out hits, one from James Ramsay and another from Conrad Gregor, knotted the game at two. Once Lowell re-took the lead, a wild pitch allowed Ronnie Mitchell to score, and the game was tied at three. A Conrad Gregor infield single, his third hit and second RBI of the game, in the 7th brought home the fourth run of the night for the 'Cats, to tie the game at four apiece.
Pat Christensen (1-0) earned the win in relief for the 'Cats, as he entered with one runner on and one out in the 9th, and got out of the inning throwing one pitch, inducing a 6-4-3 double play. Christensen fired a perfect 10th, and received the win after the wild bottom of the 10th inning. Tanner Bushue and Adrian Houser allowed a combined two runs in five innings. Manager Ed Romero said it was a good win for everyone, players and fans alike.
"Our fans got a chance to see Mark Appel pitch, and they also got the chance to see an exciting game tonight," said Romero. "Our guys really battled, stayed within themselves, played hard, and came back in a different fashion to win."
The 'Cats avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season with a victory, as they improved to 8-2 at "The Joe" and widened their lead over Lowell in the Stedler Division to two games. The ValleyCats and Spinners will wrap up their three-game series with the rubber match Saturday night at 7:00 pm. The scheduled starters are 2013 2nd round pick Andrew Thurman (0-0, 3.00) for Tri-City and Mario Alcantara (2-1, 4.50) for Lowell.