Zack Zehner’s pinch-hit home run wins it for RailRiders

By DJ Eberle - [email protected]
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders right fielder L.J. Mazzilli is caught trying to steal second base after the tag of Lehigh Valley IronPigs shortstop Dean Anna during Wednesday’s game at PNC Field in Moosic. - Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders right fielder L.J. Mazzilli catches a fly ball on the warning track during Wednesday’s game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at PNC Field in Moosic. - Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders left fielder Mark Payton takes a swing during Wednesday’s game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at PNC Field in Moosic. - Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders southpaw Josh Rogers delivers a pitch during Wednesday’s game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at PNC Field in Moosic. - - Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader

MOOSIC — Bobby Mitchell approached Zack Zehner around the fifth inning.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders manager wanted to make sure the right-handed power-hitting outfielder stayed ready despite starting Wednesday’s game on the bench. With four lefties in the Lehigh Valley IronPigs bullpen and the left-handed Bruce Caldwell as the RailRiders’ designated hitter, Zehner felt like he had a pretty good chance to get into the game.

And when that chance came, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Kyle Higashioka standing on first base in what was a one-run deficit, the right-handed Zehner made the most of hit. He crushed a Zac Curtis delivery into the Budweiser RailHouse, delivering the RailRiders (34-36) a 5-3 walk-off win over the IronPigs (41-30).

“I figured sooner or later we were going to see some lefty late in the game,” Mitchell said. “Actually, I went to make sure that his mindset was hopefully good. I said, about the fifth inning, I’m like, ‘You’re going to get a chance to win the game or you know.’ And that was it, obviously. It was pretty much righty-lefty, but he did a fantastic job.”

“He swung really good in (batting practice). I threw to him in BP.”

With Caldwell’s spot in the order in the on-deck circle, Zehner grabbed his batting helmet and a bat. Once Zehner saw Higashioka work a four-pitch walk, the pinch-hitter knew he’d get an opportunity in a relaxed atmosphere.

He sat the whole game on the bench, and with Higashioka, a catcher, standing on first base, Zehner would need an extra-base hit to even have a shot at driving the No. 6 hitter home. It was a tough ask.

Facing a 1-1 count from Curtis, Zehner sent the pitch high and far. It was a no-doubter. After going 0-4 with three strikeouts the night before, Zehner hit the game-winner.

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Zehner said. “It’s really hard coming off the bench and see pitches. It’s tough, especially if you get behind. You haven’t swung in a while. So I was just trying to go up there, be aggressive early and just kind of look to put the ball in play.

“That’s the fun of it. To just go in there and be like, ‘Alright, let’s hit the ball hard and see what happens.”

The RailRiders wouldn’t have been in the position they were in without a strong performance from Josh Rogers.

The southpaw kept his team in the game and pitched six quick innings. He allowed two runs off of a pair of solo home runs. Rogers felt like he could have went out for at least another frame after being pulled at 84 pitches, but Mitchell wanted reliever Giovanny Gallegos to get some work.

Gallegos pitched 2.2 innings of one-run baseball on three hits and struck out an impressive five batters.

“I thought I threw the ball pretty good,” Rogers said. “Quick innings early, got a couple punch outs there, made two bad pitches — to solo homers. Just tried to keep the team in it. I was pretty efficient tonight.”

Notes

RHP Anyelo Gomez has been shut down for the season. Gomez suffered a setback while rehabbing a shoulder injury, which will now require surgery.

Gomez and his wife are expecting a child “pretty quick here.” Mitchell said he’s going to hold off on the surgery until after the birth. He’ll likely have it in the next week or two.

RailRiders 5, Lehigh Valley 3

Lehigh Valley`AB`R`H`BI

Anna ss`3`0`1`0

Cowgill cf`4`0`1`0

Chambers 1b`4`0`0`0

Meneses 1b`4`1`2`1

Plouffe 2b`4`1`1`1

McBride dh`4`1`1`0

Ortiz rf`4`0`1`1

Rickles c`4`0`0`0

Tomscha 3b`3`0`1`0

Totals`34`3`8`3

RailRiders`AB`R`H`BI

Wade ss`4`0`0`0

Payton lf`2`1`1`0

Drury 3b`3`1`0`0

Austin 1b`4`1`1`3

McKinney cf`3`0`0`0

Caldwell dh`2`0`0`0

Zehner ph`1`1`1`2

Mazzilli rf`3`0`0`0

avarro 2b`3`0`0`0

Totals`28`5`3`5

E: Tomscha (1); Pickoffs: Lively (McKinney at 1B); DP: IronPigs 0, RailRiders 1; LOB: IronPigs 5, RailRiders 3; 2B: Cowgill (9), Ortiz (8); HR: Meneses (13), Plouffe (7), Austin (2), Zehner (6); CS: Mazzilli (2).

Lehigh Valley`000`200`001 — 3

RailRiders`000`000`302 — 5

Lehigh Valley`IP`H`R`ER`BB`SO

Lively`6.2`2`3`3`4`7

Milner`0.1`0`0`0`0`0

Neris`1`0`0`0`1`0

Curtis (L, 2-2)`0.2`1`2`2`1`2

RailRiders`IP`H`R`ER`BB`SO

Rogers`6`5`2`2`1`4

Gallegos`2.2`3`1`1`0`5

Carroll (W, 3-0)`0.1`0`0`0`0`1

Ejections: IronPigs manager Gary Jones ejected by HP Brian Peterson in 8th.

Umpires: Brian Peterson, HP; Dan Merzel, 1B; Erich Bacchus, 3B.

Time: 2:29; Attendance: 5,129.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders right fielder L.J. Mazzilli is caught trying to steal second base after the tag of Lehigh Valley IronPigs shortstop Dean Anna during Wednesday’s game at PNC Field in Moosic.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL062118RailRiders_4.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders right fielder L.J. Mazzilli is caught trying to steal second base after the tag of Lehigh Valley IronPigs shortstop Dean Anna during Wednesday’s game at PNC Field in Moosic. Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders right fielder L.J. Mazzilli catches a fly ball on the warning track during Wednesday’s game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at PNC Field in Moosic.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL062118RailRiders_2.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders right fielder L.J. Mazzilli catches a fly ball on the warning track during Wednesday’s game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at PNC Field in Moosic. Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders left fielder Mark Payton takes a swing during Wednesday’s game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at PNC Field in Moosic.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL062118RailRiders_3.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders left fielder Mark Payton takes a swing during Wednesday’s game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at PNC Field in Moosic. Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders southpaw Josh Rogers delivers a pitch during Wednesday’s game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at PNC Field in Moosic.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL062118RailRiders_1.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders southpaw Josh Rogers delivers a pitch during Wednesday’s game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at PNC Field in Moosic. Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader

By DJ Eberle

[email protected]

T.L. EXPRESS

Today’s Game: The RailRiders wrap up their three-game series against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Probable Pitchers: SWB RHP David Hale (3-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. LHP Cole Irvin (8-2, 2.5o)

Today at PNC Field: Energy Night; Thirsty Thursday — Enjoy $1 Bud Light and Pepsi products each Thursday home game for two hours after gates open; Battle of the Babinos Diaper Drive — Anyone who brings in a pack diapers will receive a free lawn ticket to the game.

On Radio: All RailRiders games can be heard live on NEPA Sports Radio – The Game.

HOW THEY SCORED

LEHIGH VALLEY FOURTH: Josh Rogers pitching. Joey Meneses homers to deep right. Trevor Plouffe homers to deep left. LEHIGH VALLEY 2-0

RAILRIDERS SEVENTH: Ben Lively pitching. Mark Payton walks. Brandon Drury walks. Tyler Austin homers to deep right. RAILRIDERS 3-2

LEHIGH VALLEY NINTH: Giovanny Gallegos pitching. Matt McBride singles to shallow right. Danny Ortiz doubles to deep left center, McBride scores. TIED 3-3

RAILRIDERS NINTH: Zac Curtis pitching. Kyle Higashioka walks. Pinch-hitter Zack Zehner replaes Bruce Caldwell. Zehner homers to deep right, Higashioka scores. RAILRIDERS 5-3

Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle

Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle