JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The Johnstown Mill Rats staged another ninth-inning rally Thursday night at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
This time, however, the late drama ended in a swing-and-a-miss instead of a hit, as it had on Wednesday night at The Point.
The Chillicothe Paints withstood that charge to beat the Mill Rats 7-4 in front of 348 fans.
“It would be stupid of us to watch the ninth inning and say we lost because of it,” Johnstown manager Tyler Sullivan said. “No, we lost it because we were knocked out in ninth. We lost it because we had a two-out walk in the first inning.
“Every little race counts. We have to learn from these small mistakes so that we can give ourselves a chance later in the game.
Chillicothe closer Seth Evans, his team’s fourth pitcher of the game, allowed three runs on five singles in the ninth inning but pulled out a potential tying run from Jake Casey, one of the Mill Rats’ most dangerous hitters and the player who delivered a three-run, walk-off triple a night earlier.
“I told Seth, our last pitcher, those are the hardest three outs to get,” Chillicothe manager Jackson White said. “I don’t care about the score. It’s not easy because the guys are not going to give in at this level. In this canoe, they do not yield. They fight until the last withdrawal.
The Paints (18-10) have already won the title in the first half in the Ohio River Valley division of the Prospect League. The Mill Rats (11-15) had already been eliminated. But both teams had a spirited two-game set at Point.
Johnstown will wrap up the first half in Chillicothe on Friday and Saturday, travel to the West Virginia Miners for a doubleheader on Sunday, then host West Virginia on July 4.
“We just have to learn from everything we did in the first half,” Sullivan said.
“I told our guys at batting practice (Thursday) that our main goal was to get better for the next five games.
“We have to improve in these little things. I think these little things will help us win the second half. Our approach is to find a way to improve.
After two quick outs in the first, Chillicothe’s Brett Carson and Josh McAlister walked Johnstown starter Josh Cotrill (1-4). Mike Sprocket netted a two-run triple to right-center field.
Kade Wroot of the Paints hit a home run over the wall into left center field in the fourth, and Tim Orr hit a home run from roughly the same spot in the fifth to make it 4-0.
“It’s a great moment,” White said. “It kept them going, especially with the circuits.
Sprocket with the triple, he’s not a fast guy, but at this park anything can happen when you hit him in the right field.
“They didn’t give in. We kind of fell asleep in the middle of the game, and the bats came to life when we started getting a few freebies.”
The Mill Rats salvaged a point in the sixth. Lukas Torres scored a single, stole the second and scored on Casey’s double to the left field wall.
The Paints made it 7-1 in the eighth, capitalizing on a slapped batter, three walks and a brace from Nate Dorinsky to left field.
“We left them on the first two runs they got with a two-out walk and a two-out walk again,” Sullivan said. “They cashed in. That’s what good teams do. That’s some things we haven’t done. When they set us up, we couldn’t give up and get those guys in.
In the bottom of the ninth, DJ Alexander started with an infield single, but was picked. Mackenzee Higuchi and Joe Alcorn each had a single before Chase Cromer had a fly out right.
Pete Capobianco picked in a race. Torres walked and Andrew Kribbs hit a single opposite field right, leading a pair.
“Just another day where we push late in the ninth inning,” Sullivan said. “I don’t know how to prepare them before that. It looks like in the ninth inning we still have a chance to come back and we’re waiting for a big hit.
Mike Mastovich is a sports journalist and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.