Yanks take opener from 'Cats

Fortenberry homers to spark decisive three-run third


September 12, 2006 7:07 PM

Kyle Larsen scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the third inning Tuesday as the Staten Island Yankees beat the Tri-City ValleyCats, 4-2, in Game 1 of the New York-Penn League Finals.

Seth Fortenberry sparked the Yankees' three-run third when he led off with his first postseason homer. Wilmer Pino followed with a bloop single to left field, stole second and moved to third on Mitchell Hilligoss' flyout. Larsen plated Pino with a single to center.

"I was just trying to put the ball in play on the right side because the infield was back," Larsen said. "I had two good swings that I missed, but I got a good pitch to hit, an 0-2 fastball. And, luckily enough, I was able to get up into center field."

Colin Curtis singled and moved up with Larsen on an error by center fielder Nicholas Moresi. Kevin Smith struck out but reached on Polin Trinidad's wild pitch as Larsen scored the go-ahead run.

"It was great to come right back with three runs after falling behind," the 23-year-old DH said. "We showed a lot of life and that we weren't going to lay down."

Staten Island tacked on an insurance run in the ninth. Francisco Cervelli was hit by a pitch to lead off and Christopher Kunda singled. Wilkins De La Rosa hit a sacrifice bunt and Victor Garate intentionally walked Pino to load the bases before uncorking a wild pitch to score Cervelli.

Larsen went 2-for-3 with a walk and is hitting .500 (6-for-12) with two dingers and four RBIs in the playoffs.

"I made a slight adjustment after my first two at-bats in the first Brooklyn game and I have been seeing the ball real well since," he said. "I get into trouble at the plate when I am thinking too much."

Reliever Nick Peterson (1-0) struck out three over two perfect innings for the win. Mark Melancon worked a 1-2-3 ninth to notch his second playoff save.

The Yankees bullpen retired the final 11 batters and four pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts.

"They came up huge," Larsen said. "Peterson was great again like he has been for us all season and Mark (Melancon) has been lights-out his last few times out."

Ian Kennedy, in his second professional appearance, went four strong innings. The 21-year-old right-hander and 21st overall pick in this year's draft allowed two runs on four hits, struck out six and did not walk a batter.

The ValleyCats jumped out to an early lead as Jordan Parraz, who was 2-for-3, slugged a leadoff homer in the second. Two batters later, James Van Ostrand ripped a one-out double to center field and scored on Justin Tellam's single.

Tri-City starter Bryan Hallberg (0-1) was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on three hits and two walks, striking out two over 2 1/3 innings.

Trinidad and Celson Polanco combined on 5 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the ValleyCats in the game. Trinidad yielded two hits and fanned two over 3 2/3 frames and Polanco surrendered a hit and struck out four over two innings.

The Yankees can wrap up their second straight New York-Penn League title and fourth in seven years on Wednesday, when they host Game 2 at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Chip Haunss 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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