FISHKILL, NY - Though they tied for last in the New York-Penn League with 11 homers during the regular season, the Hudson Valley Renegades played gorilla ball Thursday night at Dutchess Stadium. They used two homers, including a go ahead two-run shot by first baseman Nate Lowe in the sixth, to defeat Lowell 5-3 and sweep the best-of-three New York-Penn League Semifinal Series. With the win, the Renegades clinch a berth in the New York-Penn League Championship Series. Game 2 between Staten Island and State College was still ongoing at press time.
The Spinners were the first to get on the board in the second as designated hitter Ryan Scott blasted a solo-homer over the right-centerfield wall to give Lowell a 1-0 lead. The dinger was Scott's first of the post-season and fifth of the season.
Things stayed that way until the bottom of the fourth as Renegades pitcher Adrian Navas pitched into and out of trouble by leaving four Spinners on base in innings 2-4; three of them in scoring position. After the 12th overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, Jason Groome, tossed three scoreless innings to start the night for Lowell, Hudson Valley would finally get on the board in the fourth. With one out, leftfielder Garrett Whitley belted a solo-homer over the centerfield wall to tie the game at one. For Whitley it was his second homerun of the season and first of the post-season.
But the Renegades couldn't snatch the lead as they got runners to first and second with one out before first baseman Nate Lowe grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.
Lowell retook the lead with two runs in the sixth. Scott led off with a single before moving to second on a one out single to left by first baseman Jerry Downs. Second baseman Carlos Tovar followed Downs and laced a double to right-centerfield to score Scott from second and move Downs to third and give the Spinners a 2-1 lead. After a groundout left runners at second and third with two away, Renegades reliever Brandon Lawson uncorked a wild pitch allowing Downs to score and making the score 3-1 Lowell.
However, Hudson Valley came charging back in the fourth, starting with small ball and ending with long ball. With one out, centerfielder Jake Fraley started the uprising with a bloop single down the leftfield line. He would steal second and move to third as the throw on the stolen base attempt from Isaias Lucena bounced away from second and allowed Fraley to take third. Whitley would draw a walk, then second baseman Miles Mastrobuoni followed with a bad-hop groundball single that skidded over the glove of second baseman Carlos Tovar. The ball went into rightfield and allowed Fraley to score while Whitley went to third.
The Renegades tied the game as third baseman Jim Haley hit a soft groundball to second. Even with the infield halfway, the ball was hit too softly for Tovar to make a play at the plate. The out was made at first, however Whitley was able to break from home and score to tie the game at three.
Mastrobuoni stood at second with two away when Lowe came up with his heroics. The homerun over the straight-away centerfield wall was his fifth of the season and first of the post-season to give Hudson Valley a 5-3 lead.
From there, the Renegades bullpen shut the door as Lawson and closer Jayson McKinley (8) tossed three scoreless innings the rest of the way, though not without a little drama.
In the ninth, McKinley retired the first two batters before giving up back-to-back singles to Madera and shortstop C.J. Chatham. All-Star and one of the top hitters in the league Tyler Hill strode to the plate, and on the second pitch he popped foul to catcher Chris Betts who squeezed the ball for the game's final out. For McKinley, he went two scoreless frames, allowed two hits and a walk in nailing down his first save of the post-season, and his eighth of the year.
Though he struggled, Lawson (7-1) was credited with the win in going two innings and allowing two runs on four hits. He also struck out four in picking up his team-leading seventh victory of the season and first of the playoffs. The loss went to Spinners reliever Kyle Hart (0-1) who was making his New York-Penn League debut and allowed four runs on three hits in 2.1 innings.
Hudson Valley had six hits including two singles and an RBI by Mastrobuoni. Despite the loss, Lowell pounded out 12 hits but nine of them were singles, and they left nine men on base. They were led by Scott who went 2-4 with a homer, single, RBI and two runs scored. Rightfielder Chris Madera singled twice and stole a base, while Tovar doubled in a run in going 2-4. Downs chipped in with two hits, a run scored and a stolen base as well.
The Renegades will play a to-be-determine opponent in the New York-Penn League Championship Series at a date and time yet-to-be-determined. Continue to check hvrenegades.com for the latest information. For tickets to the Championship Series, call 845-838-0094 or go to hvrenegades.com.