Staten Island Yankees Recap: Junior Valera’s Walk-Off Double Gives Yanks Game 1 Win Over Tri-City
Last night, the McNamara Division champion Staten Island Yankees took on the Stedler Division champs, the Tri-City Valleycats (Houston Astros’ New-York Penn-League affiliate) in Game 1 of the Penn-League semifinals at Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island. In a game that had James Kaprielian take the ball for the Baby Bombers, Staten Island needed extra innings, but it was Junior Valera’s RBI double in the bottom of the 11th that lifted the Yanks to a 3-2 win and 1-0 lead in this best-of-three series.
Right out of the gate, the Yankees got on the board in the bottom of the first against Tri-City’s starter, Chris Murphy. With two outs and Jeff Hendrix on second, Trey Amburgey hit a double to deep left field to give Staten Island a 1-0 lead.
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Tri-City would even the score against Kaprielian in the top of the second inning. After a leadoff single by Dexture McCall, the Valleycats played small ball to move him to third with two outs via a sac bunt and groundout. Then, Anthony Hermelyn hit a base hit to right, which drove in McCall and tied the game at one.
That one run would be the only one Kaprielian would give up. The 16th pick in this year’s draft went six innings, gave up one run on four hits, and struck out four on 68 pitches (52 strikes) in the no-decision. The right-hander did not have one two-ball count until the top of the fifth:
"“He [Kaprielian] was pretty dominant. This kid is impressive. He looks a lot older than he is. He conducts himself like he’s 35 years old. We’ve got a good one, “ said manager Pat Osborn."
I also asked Kaprielian after the game about how pitching in a minor league playoff game compared to pitching in the College World Series when he was at UCLA:
"“Playoffs will always be a little different. It was fun to be around the guys,” replied Kaprielian. “The dugout was lively, both teams were fighting their tails off to win the game. It was a good experience and hopefully, we are looking for a couple more playoff games.”"
Tri-City would end up coming back in the top of the seventh against reliever Jeff Degano. With two outs and a man on first, Hermelyn delivered for the Valleycats again. He doubled to right center to drive in Kolbey Carpenter and tied the game at two.
Staten Island had a couple of chances to take the lead, but they failed to capitalize in the seventh and tenth innings with bases loaded and no outs. In that tenth inning, Zack Zehner was at the plate for the Yanks with two outs and a 3-0 count. Reliever Scott Weathersby threw a pitch that had the Yanks’ dugout excited since they thought it was ball four, but the home plate umpire called it a strike. Zehner would strike out swinging to end the inning.
Despite those missed opportunities, Staten Island’s bullpen was able to keep the Valleycats off the board. After Degano, Michael Schaub and Jonny Drozd held Tri-City to two hits over the course of 3.2 innings. Drozd ended up getting the win after holding Tri-City to one hit over the final three innings of the contest.
During the bottom of the 11th, Staten Island finally found a way to win it. Ryan Krill and Amburgey had back-to-back one-out singles to put runners on first and second with one out. Then, Junior Valera (who walked to lead off the tenth, hit a double to right field off of Weathersby to drive in Danienger Perez, who was pinch-running for Krill:
"“This kid has a lot of ability,” said Osborn about the New York-Penn League All-Star. “He’s still very raw, but he can hit. He’s been our most consistent hitter all season. He’s a guy we need in the lineup everyday. He’s done a tremendous job.”"
Next Game: The Staten Island Yankees will continue their series against the Tri-City Valleycats tomorrow night up in Tri-City at 7:05 PM ET. Your Game 2 starters are Domingo Acevedo for the Yankees against Ralph Garza for the Valleycats.
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