Heart, grit, determination.
Those are just a few words to describe how the Cyclones played yesterday against all odds.
Sure, the season effectively ended less than an hour into the game, when the left-field scoreboard reported the news from Batavia, where 657 die-hard, soaking-wet fans sat through a 49-minute rain delay, only to see their team fall to the Abner Doubledays (or Auburn, but does it really matter?).
And with that loss some 350 miles away, the Cyclones’s dream of ending a five-year playoff drought came to an unceremonious end.
The news, which reached Coney Island about halfway through a game tied at one, at first seemed to deflate our boys. Having taken that 1–0 lead in the first, thanks to a Ross Adolph triple and Drew Finley wild pitch, Staten Island tied it up in the fourth and — gasp! — went ahead in the sixth.
But our boys did not go gentle into that good night.
They raged, raged against the dying of the light.
L.A. Woodward’s single with one out in the seventh was followed by an Angel Manzanarez double that sent him home, tying the score. Up waltzed All-Star Game most-valuable player Adolph, without question the Cyclones best offensive threat this season and a sure-fire candidate to make the Mets next season, a la Michael Conforto, who doubled Manzanarez home, bringing the 4,500 fans in attendance to their feet.
But Staten Island, the hated Yankees, answered in the eighth, tying the game up and, eventually, sending it to extra innings.
Free baseball at a time when the season should be — technically is — over.
Is there a better time to be at sunny MCU Park?
(Of course there is: The playoffs. But let’s not talk about that now.)
Thanks to that dumb new rule documented in these pages again and again, the Yanks took the lead in the top of the 10th.
But again the Clones raged.
Brian Sharp’s sharp single to center put runners on first and third before Dylan Tice was hit by a pitch, loading the bases.
Understanding that getting hit by a pitch hurts — but also puts a runner on base — Hayden Senger made the ultimate sacrifice, taking one for the team and tying the game. Woodward then walked, driving in the final run and sending the fans home with at least something to cheer about.
Talk about a walk off.
And so ends the season, one filled with as many ups and downs as the team’s eponymous roller coaster.
In the end, our boys fell just one-half game short of the Doubledays, who happened to get in — and win — one more game. The New York-Penn League’s dumb rules say winning percentage is the ultimate decider of who keeps playing and who goes home after the last game of the season, logic be damned.
And the Doubledays, at 41–35, were percentage points better then Brooklyn, at 40–35.
So that leaves Brooklyn fans scratching their heads and mumbling that ever-hopeful refrain.
Wait ’till next year.
—with Vince DiMiceli