The calming, mild-mannered presence of Jonathan Loaisiga on the mound was exactly what Class A Short Season Staten Island needed in a win-or-go home situation.
The Yankees right-hander allowed four hits and a walk while fanning four over five scoreless innings as Staten Island rolled to a 4-1 win over Hudson Valley on Sunday at Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Game 2 of the best-of-3 New York-Penn League semifinals.
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"He was very composed and he had a good fastball, worked both sides of the plate and worked in to hitters," Staten Island pitching coach Travis Phelps said. "He kept his off-speed down in the zone and he worked ahead, he didn't get behind many hitters. And when he did get ahead, he put them away."
Loaisiga underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016 and returned this year in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before joining Staten Island on Aug. 16. In four regular-season New York-Penn League starts, the 22-year-old sported a 0.53 ERA and a 0.47 WHIP over 17 innings. Phelps saw the same strong pitcher from the regular season show up in the elimination game.
"His key is that he attacks hitters," the skipper said. "He's obviously coming off of an injury and he's been nothing less than fantastic. He gets ahead of hitters, he attacks hitters, he's not afraid to challenge, and when he gets ahead, he puts them away."
The native of Nicaragua worked around Deion Tansel's two-out double in the first inning. In the bottom half, the Yankees jumped ahead on Timmy Robinson's two-RBI double. The run support was all Loaisiga would need as he set down 10 of the next 12 hitters he faced. After Angel Perez singled and Taylor Walls walked with two outs in the fifth, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound hurler eluded danger by whiffing Vidal Brujan.
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"We talked about it before the game with these guys, just stay relaxed, stay aggressive," Phelps said. "It was attacking early, try to put some runs on the board. [Scoring early] relieved some of the pressure. When we get a lead, there's a pretty good chance it's going to be a tight game at the end."
The Renegades did make things close in the ninth as Perez singled in a run and Walls collected a base knock to bring the tying run to the plate. Reliever Kaleb Ort worked out of trouble and induced a flyout from Brujan to close out the ballgame.
"It's nerve-wracking, we know those guys are scrappers," Phelps said. "We know they competed all year -- they don't give up. We knew that coming in, we had a gameplan that we weren't going to take any chances. We know what they can do and it does get a little nerve-wracking when they get some guys on base."
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The decisive Game 3 will take place at place 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday in Staten Island.