ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 25, 2023) — After watching their 6-0 lead shrink to a single run, Brooklyn refused to allow a repeat of Tuesday night. LHP Eli Ankeney stranded the tying and winning runs at second and third with three-straight strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth, as the Cyclones held on to defeat the Asheville Tourists, 6-5, on Friday evening at McCormick Field.
With the victory and Jersey Shore’s loss at Wilmington, the Cyclones regained sole possession of first place in the South Atlantic League North Division with 14 games left to play.
Brooklyn (31-21, 59-58) held a one-run edge entering the ninth inning when 1B John García walked and 2B Justin Williams doubled to put runners at second and third with nobody out.
Manager Chris Newell emerged from the third base dugout to offer words of encouragement to his pitcher, catcher, and infield before returning to his post.
Ankeney responded by carrying his squad over the finish line. The Phoenix, Ariz. native struck out CF Zach Cole and RF Logan Cerny swinging and caught C Miguel Palma looking— who clubbed the walk-off two-run single on Tuesday — to strand both runners and seal the Cyclones’ third-straight victory, 6-5.
After three scoreless innings to start, Brooklyn struck first with runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
3B William Lugo doubled to right-center to start the fourth, while LF Omar De Los Santos and LF Jefrey De Los Santos followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases. C Christian Pregent lifted a sacrifice fly into foul territory in right, giving the Cyclones a 1-0 lead.
An inning later, SS Jett Williams continued his surge. The 19-year-old started the fifth with an opposite-field home run over the 20-plus foot wall in right — his fifth with Brooklyn — to stretch the ‘Clones cushion to 2-0.
It appeared that the time that Cyclones put the game out of reach in the top of the seventh.
Following a Pregent walk to start the frame, CF Rhylan Thomas placed a perfect push bunt towards the third-base line. The barehanded attempt to get the out at first kicked up the right-field line and allowed a run to score, increasing Brooklyn’s lead to three.
With one out, 1B Ryan Clifford mangled a ball beyond the right-center field fence for a two-run home run. The 20-year-old’s second long ball in as many games made it a 5-0 affair.
The Cyclones did not acquiesce. RF Stanley Consuegra reached on an infield single and swiped second before crossing the dish on a base hit to right from Lugo.
3B Tyler Whitaker started Asheville’s (20-32, 46-67) half of the inning with a solo home run to right-center. His second-straight contest with a round-tripper sliced Brooklyn’s advantage to 6-1.
The Tourists put the pressure on in the eighth, as a walk, a hit batter, and a Palma three-run home run to right-center quickly made it a two-run ballgame, 6-4.
After Ankeney entered, DH Tim Borden II doubled, scooted to third on a wild pitch, and with one out scored on a SS Tommy Sacco Jr. sacrifice fly to right.
LF Michael Sandle hit a ball that was run down at the warning track to close out the inning with the Cyclones leading by one.
RHP Joander Suárez (5-9) punched out six hitters over six innings of one-hit shutout ball to earn the victory for the Cyclones.
His first strike out of the night — and 113th of the season — set a new single-season franchise record for Ks. RHP Blade Tidwell set the high-water mark back in July by striking out 112 hitters before his promotion to Double-A Binghamton.
Ankeney’s heroic effort to close out the ballgame resulted in his fifth save.
RHP Miguel Ullola (3-7) was taxed with the tough-luck loss for Asheville after permitting just two runs on four hits over five innings.
The Cyclones will look to match their longest winning streak of the season at four on Saturday evening. RHP Jordan Geber (2-1, 4.82 ERA) is expected to get the ball for the Cyclones against the Tourists’ RHP A.J. Blubaugh (6-3, 4.94 ERA). The first pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.