The Staten Island Yankees got their New York-Penn League season started on the right foot Monday night as they defeated the Brooklyn Cyclones 2-1 at Richmond County Bank Ballpark in St. George. This is just the second time in franchise history that the team won a season opener and the sixth time they have won the home opener. The winning pitcher was Giovanny Gallegos, who threw five shutout innings, giving up only three hits and striking out five. After a disappointing 2012 season, the Baby Bombers’ clubhouse has to feel good about being 1-0, especially playing in front of a crowd of 6,711. (stadium seats a little over 7,000).
The one play that decided this game came in the bottom of the second inning when third baseman Francisco Rosario hit a groundball to third that appeared to end the inning and leave the bases loaded. However, Cyclones’ third baseman Anthony Chavez barehanded the ball and threw it away from the first baseman allowing Brandon Thomas and Isaias Tejada to score the only two runs for the Staten Island Yankees.
As for the pitching staff, Gallegos was outstanding with his fastball. The velocity on the heater was between 91 and 93 miles per hour for the bulk of the night and was pounding the strike zone, forcing Cyclones’ hitters to swing early in the count. Gallegos retired the first ten Cyclones of the game, until L.J Mazzilli, son of former Yankee coach Lee Mazzilli, singled to center field with 1 out in the top of the 4th inning.
The offense featured mainly infield singles, with five of the nine Yankees’ hits not even leaving the infield. However, left fielder Michael O’Neill was the star of the game for the offense. The nephew of former Yankee left fielder, Paul O’Neill, went 2-4 with a single, double, and two stolen bases. He even made a diving catch in left field, a position he did not play in college, to start the 2nd inning. I asked him about that diving catch after the game.
“I haven’t played left field since summer ball when I was 16 years old,” O’Neil replied. “I’m glad I made the play and helped the pitcher out.”
The one negative about this game was right fielder Daniel Lopez being hit in the helmet by a Robert Gsellman fastball in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Lopez left the game under his own power, but manager Justin Pope said that he will be examined for a possible concussion on Tuesday.
Manager Justin Pope told us on Saturday that he wanted his team to play aggressive baseball. For one night, the team bought into that message, with three stolen bases in four attempts.
“It just opens up holes for us,” said Pope when talking about the impact that stolen bases could have on the lineup going forward.
The game ended with Yankees’ 10th round pick Tyler Webb throwing a hitless 9th inning, capping the game with a 92 mph third strike swinging to Anthony Chavez. Even though local Staten Islander Dillon McNamara was warming up in the bullpen during the top of the 8th inning, Pope elected not to use him in this game and instead use the former South Carolina closer at the “tail end of the game.” He wanted to also give veterans second-year players Charles Basford and James Pazos the first crack out of the bullpen. This was much of the chagrin to the fans who were chanting “We Want D-Mac” during the 8th inning.
Brooklyn scored its only run on a solo home run in the top of the 7th inning from right fielder James Roche. Their best chance to tie the game came in the 8th when they got the first two runners on via an infield single and an error. Then, Tejeda threw the runner out at 3rd on a double steal attempt, which was then followed by a Pazos K of Matt Oberste with two on and two out to keep the game and ultimately the final at 2-1.