BATAVIA — Batavia catcher Jesus Montero was one strike away from getting a well-deserved second game in a row off behind the plate for the Muckdogs.
Yet after Staten Island tied the game in the ninth inning, Batavia was plenty pleased to have a bat like his waiting in the wings in the home dugout.
Following a rough pinch-hit at-bat in the ninth, Montero came through in the clutch in the 11th when he ripped a two-out single up the middle on a 1-2 count to score Patrick Wisdom from second base as the resilient Muckdogs won their fourth in a row, 5-4 over the Yankees.
“It’s awesome,” said Batavia first baseman David Washington of the win. “Getting that big hit, getting to celebrate as opposed to walking off the field is a great feeling.”
With the series sweep of the Yankees, Batavia capped its homestand with a 4-2 record and moved into second place in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division, two games behind Auburn.
“We’ve had so many of these close games and I’m glad we came out on top in this one,” said Batavia manager Dann Bilardello. “We’re going into an off-day feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
The Muckdogs will now venture out on a tough, six-game road trip to Tri-City — which holds the best record in the NY-P at 30-12 — and Vermont before they return home next week.
Montero’s hit made a loser out of Derek Varnadore, though he should have been out of the inning.
Wisdom led off the 11th with a lined single to left and following a Washington strikeout, Jordan Walton reached when his ground ball was mishandled by Yankees third baseman Fu-Lin Quo to put runners at first and second.
Varnadore then struck out Steven Ramos, which should have ended the inning. Instead it gave Montero a chance.
After looking over-matched in the ninth against James Pazos and on the first two pitches he saw from Varnadore, Montero fouled a pitch straight back and then proceeded to lace one directly over second base to plate the game-winner.
“He’s [Montero] been doing a great job for us this year,” said Washington. “His approach every time at the plate is great. He doesn’t let his previous at-bat get to him. He just keeps plugging and plugging and it’s great to see him come through for us.”
The RBI for Montero was his 21st of the season as he regained the team lead from Washington, who had tied him earlier in the evening.
Early on, however, the Muckdogs looked rather flat at the plate and starter Kyle Helisek was uncharacteristically off his game from the onset.
The left-hander threw more balls than strikes in the first inning and worked around a one-out single by Staten Island catcher Peter O’Brien in the second before he ran into trouble in the third.
With two outs and no one on, Helisek walked Taylor Dugas and Claudio Custodio made him pay with a long triple that hit halfway up the Tully’s sign in right to make it 1-0.
Helisek then plunked Saxon Butler on the first pitch and Matt Snyder and Ravel Santana followed with RBI singles and Batavia was down 3-0.
Helisek escaped further damage in the frame but that was the end of his night.
After reliever Corey Baker pitched a perfect fourth, Washington finally got the Muckdogs going in the home half when he ripped a 1-1 Gabriel Encinas pitch high over the right field wall for his fourth home run of the season, which cut the lead to 3-1.
Lost in the excitement of the walk-off win, Baker was stellar in relief of Helisek.
He tossed a perfect fifth and got around harmless two-out singles in the sixth and seventh. In his four innings of work he walked none and struck out two to keep the Yankees at bay.
“It’s a stupid quote but pitching does dictate how the game goes,” said Bilardello. “Helisek was definitely off today and gave up the runs early and after that, Baker was just unbelievable.”
Batavia tied it in the fifth when Garrett Wittels — who pinch ran for an injured Alex Mejia — scored on a long triple from Breyvic Valera, who then came home one pitch later on a wild pitch to make it three-all.
Mejia injured his knee while he tried to beat out an errant throw from Staten Island shortstop Custodio with two outs and was forced to make a contorted move around Snyder at first; the extent of the injury is unknown.
“When Mejia got hurt I got a sense that the players wanted to pick him up somehow,” said Bilardello. “I don’t know why, I just felt that and that is what you have to do if someone goes down.”
The game remained that way until the eighth when the savvy Valera reached on a leadoff infield single off of Josh Romanski to short and then scampered to second when Custodio’s throw sailed high.
Following perfect sacrifice bunt by Danny Stienstra, Valera came home with the go-ahead run on an incredibly wild pitch to give Batavia a 4-3 lead.
Valera had two hits and two runs scored on the night as he moved his average to .353 on the season — good for second in the league.
Yunier Castillo appeared as though he was going to sail through the ninth when he got the first two out but ninth-place hitter Jose Rosario singled on a 2-2 pitch with the crowd on its feet and Dugas followed with a single to right that was booted by Gary Apelian and allowed Rosario to score all the way from first with the tying run.
Castillo got out of trouble, worked a perfect 10th and left runners at second and third in the 11th before the Muckdogs came through in the bottom of the frame.
“It’s nice to go into the trip with momentum,” said Washington. “We have a day off [today], we get to relax a bit and start fresh at Tri-City.”
Batavia has today off and will travel to Troy where it will face Tri-City for a three-game set starting Wednesday.
The Muckdogs will next be at Dwyer a week from today when they play host to State College.