A lifelong Mets fans, Charley Thurber found himself in a unique situation Friday afternoon. The Mets' 39th-round pick stepped in against Yankees right-hander Bryan Mitchell in the fourth inning of a must-win playoff game.
"We've been extremely anxious," Thurber said. "We've built up a lot anxiety and we just wanted to get on the field."
Thurber, who grew up in Upstate New York, picked a good time for his first professional home run, hitting a two-run drive to right field for a three-run lead over the Cyclones' biggest rivals.
"It definitely felt good," the 21-year-old said. "I was trying to have a normal approach, just drive it. He left one over the plate. It was a pretty cool feeling to hit my first."
Thurber's hit was one of many -- after nearly being no-hit a night earlier, the Cyclones weren't taking any chances in Game 2 of their best-of-3 semifinals playoff series. Thurber and Richard Lucas went deep and Brian Harrison added four hits and three RBIs as Brooklyn scored in nearly every inning to beat Staten Island, 12-5, to extend the New York-Penn League semifinals series one more game.
"I think today we had that chemistry that we had over the last month when we got hot and made a run at this race," said Thurber, who left the University of Tennessee this summer to join his favorite team. "And for whatever reason yesterday, they did a good job keeping us off balance -- their pitchers had a great outing. But we were able to do a better job and work like a team today, getting the hits to come together."
Thurber's two-run shot in the fourth, his first professional home run, put Brooklyn ahead, 6-3, before Lucas added a two-run drive of his own in the eighth to put the Cyclones up by seven. The Mets affiliate totaled 16 hits and scored in every inning from the second to the eighth.
Thurber grew up in Elmira, N.Y., and was the Mets' 39th-round pick in June out of the University of Tennessee.
"It worked out well," he laughed.
The outfielder spent last summer with Hyannis in the Cape Cod League before skipping his senior season with the Vols to join the Mets. He made his Minor League debut on June 22 with Brooklyn and knows he made the right call.
"College didn't work out as it seemed it was going to. Before the season, I ran into a bunch of injuries -- they held me out, and I played through some, but it was a tough year for me," said Thurber, who appeared in 36 games with the Vols and batted .230 with two home runs, 12 RBIs and five stolen bases. "I was blessed with an opportunity there, but I feel great about the decision I made to join this great organization and work my way up and help them win games."
Staten Island held a brief 2-1 lead in the second after Zach Wilson's two-run single to center. Brooklyn came back when Cole Frenzel hit a two-run single and Lucas raced home on an error in the third.
The Yankees' final rally came in the fifth when Tyler Austin singled home Mason Williams and Cito Culver, the Yankees' 2010 first-round pick.
Brooklyn starter Jeff Walters, a seventh-rounder out of Georgia in 2009, was charged with five runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and a walk in 4 1/3 innings. Rafael Montero got the final two outs of the fifth to pick up the win before Tyler Pill and Duke product Jeremy Gould threw two scoreless frames apiece.
Thurber said it was encouraging to see his teammates pick up the slack after Brooklyn's starter struggled early on.
"It was a great feeling, every time. That's our job -- to provide runs for our staff and win games, and I think we did a great job today," he said. "Obviously in driving balls, a lot of people had great days. Brian Harrison had a great day -- everyone contributed. So it's always a great feeling -- a lot of energy in the dugout."
Both teams will meet again Saturday in the decisive Game 3 at Staten Island.
"Hopefully we have a lot of momentum," Thurber said. Rainy weather in New York has been a problem the last few weeks, delaying and postponing games in the area. "When we played yesterday, it felt like it was the first time we'd played in two weeks. We wanted to get back on the field."
Brooklyn reached the championship last season but fell to Tri-City. Of course, this year's team features mostly new faces and names.
"We're excited -- after today we have a lot of momentum and we're excited coming out tomorrow and getting up as fast as we can," Thurber said. "We're swinging the bats well. We just want to get back out, keep hitting and keep winning."
In other New York-Penn League playoff action:
Doubledays 7, Lake Monsters 2
Bryce Ortega doubled home a pair of runs and scored twice to lead Auburn to the New York-Penn League Championship Series. Carlos Alvarez was 3-for-5 with a triple and a run scored and Nationals' fifth-rounder Matthew Skole had two RBIs for the Doubledays. Box score