STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- With his team facing elimination, James Van Ostrand hit a grand slam and drove in five runs as Tri-City defeated host Staten Island, 9-2, on Wednesday in the New York-Penn League Finals.
Van Ostrand's seventh-inning slam, which capped the scoring, came against reliever Luke Trubee. The 22-year-old center fielder, who delivered an RBI single during a three-run first, hit just two homers and drove in 13 runs over 140 regular season at-bats.
"The pitch was a fastball right over the middle, and I got it pretty good," said Van Ostrand, who also hit a grand slam against Vermont on Aug. 22. "The playoffs are what it's all about, and we're the two best teams in the league. I'm glad that it's all going to come down to what happens tomorrow night."
Aaron Bulkley also went yard in the seventh, a leadoff blast to left field that extended Tri-City's lead to 5-2. The second-year ValleyCat, who has battled injuries for much of the season, was a late addition to the starting lineup.
"It's been a rough season, so I was real excited to get a chance," he said. "It's unbelievable to be in this situation."
The ValleyCats capitalized on the wildness of starter Angel Reyes (0-1) in the opening frame. The 19-year-old loaded the bases with one out on a single by Tim Torres and walks to Greg Buchanan and Jordan Parraz. Jhon Florentino walked to force in Buchanan, and Torres came home on a wild pitch.
Then Van Ostrand ended Reyes' night with a base hit to right field.
Edgar Soto replaced Reyes and retired Justin Tellam and Chris Johnson to end the first. Soto, who started 12 games during the regular season, allowed an RBI single to Buchanan in the second before shutting down the ValleyCats over the next four frames. The left-hander fell apart in the seventh, surrendering Bulkley's dinger and loading the bases before giving way to Trubee. Soto pitched six innings, allowing five runs on four hits and four walks.
"Soto pitched pretty well for us," Staten Island manager Gaylen Pitts said. "He was rested and ready to throw 100 pitches if he needed to. In all honesty, he probably should have started the game. But sometimes those decisions are out of our control."
Tri-City starter Casey Hudspeth gave up two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out five over four-plus innings. The University of South Florida product hurled three scoreless frames before Staten Island broke through for two runs in the fourth. Colin Curtis and Francisco Cervelli singled, and Kevin Smith followed with an RBI single. Cervelli scored on a wild pitch before Buchanan bailed out Hudspeth. The second baseman made a spectacular leaping grab on Chris Kunda's line drive and doubled off Smith at second to end the inning.
Douglas Arguello (1-0) pitched magnificently in relief of Hudspeth and earned the win. The native of Nicaragua allowed just one hit and one walk over five scoreless innings while striking out four.
Reyes allowed three runs on two hits and three walks while retiring just one batter.
Game 3 is in Staten Island at 7:10 p.m. ET on Thursday. George Kontos will start for the Yankees, while Christopher Salamida will take to the mound for Tri-City.
"This is what it should all come down to," Pitts said. "We've got two great pitchers going up against one another, and it's going to be winner-take-all. This was the way it was meant to be."