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ValleyCats rally to New York-Penn title

Astros affiliate uses another big sixth inning en route to crown
September 12, 2013

Don't look now, but the short-season ValleyCats are becoming the powerhouse of the New York-Penn League. They added some more hardware to their resume Thursday.

Trailing in the sixth inning, 1-0, Tri-City scored four runs in that frame for the second straight game and held on for a 4-3 win over State College to win its second New York-Penn League title in four years.

The ValleyCats managed their game-changing inning without getting a ball out of the infield. Ronnie Mitchell bunted for a base hit to start the frame and Chan Moon reached while trying to bunt for Mitchell over.

After a sacrifice bunt, Jack Mayfield singled on a ground ball to third base, allowing Mitchell to tie the game. Back-to-back wild pitches by Victor De La Cruz allowed Moon to score and Mayfield to move to third.

Walks to Tyler White and Conrad Gregor loaded the bases and Tri-City scored its final two runs on a throwing error by shortstop Cesar Valera on a ground ball by Brett Holberton.

Kyle Westwood, a 13th-rounder by the Astros in June, gave up a run on six hits and fanned four over six innings to pick up his second series-ending win of the playoffs. The Florida native posted a 2-2 record with an 0.81 ERA in 11 outings, including eight starts, during the regular season.

Chris Munnelly tossed a perfect seventh and walked Steven Ramos to open the eighth. Gonzalo Sanaudo took over and allowed one hit in a scoreless frame. Looking to close out his fourth game of the playoffs, Sanaudo gave up a two-run homer to Mason Katz with no outs in the ninth. But with the tying run on second, the 21-year-old right-hander fanned Steven Ramos and Valera to end the game.

The ValleyCats fell to Hudson Valley in the Finals last season. Thursday marked their first title since the 2010 season, when they swept Brooklyn to win their first New York-Penn League championship. In the past four years, they only missed the playoffs in 2011.

"We've been up and down the whole year," manager Ed Romero said. "These guys -- just watching these guys toughen up and play the game the way they've played it the last month -- it's unbelievable.

"I cannot describe how proud I am of these guys. They showed a lot of character. They toughened up quickly. They came out to play, had faith and knew they could [win]."

Mayfield finished with two hits, scoring a run.

The blast by Katz gave him a playoff-high nine RBIs. The Cardinals' fourth-round pick batted .435 average in six contests.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich.