Tucker, 'Cats walk off with Game 1 win

Astros prospect lifts sac fly in 10th in NY-Penn Finals opener

By Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com | September 11, 2012 8:59 PM

When Preston Tucker stepped to the plate in the 10th inning on Tuesday night, he only had one thing on his mind: Put the ball in play and walk off with a win.

One pitch later, the game was over, Tucker's job was done and he was at the bottom of a dogpile on the infield.

The Astros prospect lifted a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to give the Tri-City ValleyCats a 5-4 victory over the Hudson Valley Renegades in Game 1 of the best-of-3 New York-Penn League Championship Series.

The Renegades scored three times in the top of the first, but Tri-City answered with two runs in the second and two more in the third. The ValleyCats held the lead until the ninth, when Leonardo Reginatto slugged a one-out homer to force extra innings.

But Tucker, who hit .321 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 42 games in his first year of pro ball, pushed the ValleyCats within one win of their second title in three years.

"You've got the two best teams in the league going at it," Tri-City manager Stubby Clapp told the Troy Record. "Neither team quits. Those guys fight tooth-and-nail. Now we've got to go to their place and we're going to have to strap it on."

After Emilio King grounded out to open the 10th, Ryan Dineen, Joe Sclafani and Austin Elkins delivered consecutive singles to load the bases. Tucker, a 2012 seventh-round pick out of the University of Florida, sent a fly ball to right field that was deep enough to score Dineen.

"I was just trying to hit it on the barrel," Tucker told the newspaper. "Anything to get the run in. I was just trying to hit it deep."

Catfish Elkins and Dan Gulbransen hit their first postseason homers for the ValleyCats, while leadoff hitter Joe Sclafani reached base three times and scored once.

After Tri-City starter Juri Perez gave up three runs -- two earned -- on three hits over five innings, Vincent Velasquez and John Neely (1-0) yielded one run on four hits over the final five frames.

"[Velasquez] threw his fastball and spotted it very well. It was fun to watch," Clapp said. "I had a bit of apprehension throwing him out there because I didn't want to see him hurt himself trying to do something for the team. His career is more important than trying to win a championship."

Catcher Luke Maile was 2-for-5 with a two-run homer and Reginatto was on base all four times for Hudson Valley, which hosts Game 2 on Wednesday. The Renegades must win two games in a row to end a 12-year championship drought.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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