TROY, NY - The Tri-City ValleyCats and State College Spikes played well into the night, but the ValleyCats lost game one of the New York-Penn League Championship Series 2-1 in 11 innings.
Tri-City jumped on the board first in the bottom of the second. 'Cats Catcher Brett Booth hit a single up the middle to start the frame. The next batter, left fielder Jon Kemmer, hit a groundball to the Spikes second baseman Mason Katz, but Katz threw it wide of the shortstop Cesar Valera, which put runners on the corners. Brian Holberton hit a sacrifice fly to center field in his first at-bat in a ValleyCats uniform to give Tri-City a 1-0 lead.
The 'Cats pitching staff held the Aberdeen IronBirds scoreless for the entire semi-final series (18 IP). Tri-City starter Evan Grills wanted to continue that tradition but made one mistake in his eight innings of work. It broke up a streak of 22.1 consecutive scoreless innings pitched.
With one out, Katz hit the first pitch he saw in the fifth over the ValleyCats bullpen in left field to tie the game.
"I just left a fastball up," said Grills. "It happens."
The two teams continued to put up zeros well into the later innings. The 'Cats had a chance in the bottom of the eighth when Ryan Dineen walked and Tyler White singled with two outs, but both would be stranded when Conrad Gregor grounded out to Spikes reliever Kevin Herget. The ValleyCats left eight runners on base by night's end.
The Spikes had a chance in the top of the ninth, but shortstop Chan Moon gunned down Steven Ramos at the plate to keep the score tied at one. Ramos tried to run Booth over, but failed to knock the ball free.
State College took its first lead of the night in the top of the eleventh. The ValleyCats replaced Chris Munnelly with Edison Frias to start the inning, and Frias allowed a single to lead-off man Luis Perez. Outfielder Johnny Bosco bunted down the first base line for a sacrifice, but Frias threw the ball down the right field line to score the eventual game-winning run.
"There was starting to get some dew on the ground," said ValleyCats catcher Brett Booth. "[Frias] made a good play getting there. It just slipped."
"[Losing] is tough, especially when you're in the playoffs and in the finals," said Manager Ed Romero. "We'll get the guys ready for tomorrow, we'll bounce back, and we'll see what happens."
The 'Cats and Spikes face off in game two Wednesday night at Medler Field at Lubrano Park. The ValleyCats need to win to keep the 2013 season alive. Follow the ValleyCats twitter account (@ValleyCats) for constant updates for game two and possibly beyond.