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Prada not concerned with early strikeout numbers

June 19, 2013 - Mitch Rupert

STATE COLLEGE – When Jiandido Tromp struck out in the bottom of the 11th inning Tuesday night against State College, he became the 12th strikeout victim of the night for the Williamsport Crosscutters.

There's been a lot of that for the Cutters in the first two games of the season. They struck out nine times in a 4-2 win over State College on Monday night. The 12 more during Tuesday night's 7-3, 11-inning loss to State College made Williamsport the only team in the New York-Penn League to have struck out at least 20 times through the first two games of the season.

It's a number manager Nelson Prada didn't put much stock in following Tuesday night's loss, mainly because the offense has is also just one of three teams in the NYPL to have produced at least 20 hits in the first two games. The Cutters' 22 hits are second only to Tri-City's 24.

“Sometimes you have to battle more with two strikes,” Prada said following Tuesday night's game. “Try to choke up a little bit and battle. Of course, we played 11 innings, maybe that's why we got 12. It's all part of the process.”

The process Prada speaks of is the growth and maturation of most of the Cutters roster batting against potentially the best pitching they've seen in their baseball lives, not just their professional careers. But the problem for the Cutters isn't just that the offense is striking out at a better than one-per-pinning stretch, but it's when the strikeouts are coming.

Eight if the 21 strikeouts have come with runners on base. Six have come with runners in scoring position. Not coincidentally, Williamsport is hitting just .138 (4 for 29) with runners in scoring position in the last two games.

On top of that, seven of the Cutters' strikeouts have come to lead off an inning and six have ended an inning. What that means is in seven of the 20 innings Williamsport has played, they've essentially started with one out and nobody on base.

Williamsport has been aided by better hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position. Three of its four hits with runners in scoring position have come with two outs.

Although Prada would like to see better battles with two strikes from his players, he's willing to shrug off the struggles this early in the season because the lineup has produced hits. He took Zach Green's strikeout with runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth inning in stride Tuesday because the 19-year old third baseman also had three extra-base hits and drove in three runs.

“We're striking out, but at least we're getting hits,” Prada said. “It's better than striking out and only getting two or three hits a night. The guys who are striking out are getting hard hits. I don't want to strike out that much, but I don't worry about it.”

State College has thrown out some strong arms at the Cutters through two games. Guys who throw hard with nasty secondary pitches.

Monday night, Spikes reliever Jhonny Polanco struck out four in two innings with an overpowering fastball. Starting pitcher Juan Bautista struck out four in his five innings Monday thanks to a plus change-up that was clearly his best pitch until the Williamsport offense began to sit on it and drive it.

State College relievers combined for nine strikeouts in seven innings Tuesday night. Victor DeLeon painted corners and only made one mistake, a hanging breaking ball to Green which he hit for a game-tying home run in the eighth inning. It was the lone run the Spikes pen gave up.

The strong arms, especially in the bullpen, was something State College manager Oliver Marmol was expecting, especially the strong debut from 21-year old Polanco who has averaged eight strikeouts per nine innings in his career.

“He's done a really nice job for us in the past, especially in that reliever role,” Marmol said Monday. “His fastball, he runs it up there pretty good and we're excited to see what he's going to be able to do this year.”


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