MOOSIC — Ryan Bollinger was walking around the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders clubhouse with a Brisbane Bandits polo on after his outing Tuesday night.
The black polo was a little piece of evidence of the long journey the 27-year-old southpaw had to make to get to the RailRiders (9-9).
Bollinger hadn’t pitched in a minor league game since 2013 when he was with Single-A Kannapolis. Since then he has pitched in independent leagues from 2014-2016, in Germany in 2017 and with the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League this past offseason. In fact, when he was drafted in 2009 by the Philadelphia Phillies, it was as a first baseman.
That time spent pitching in independent leagues and overseas was all with one goal in mind — making it back to the minors, and eventually the majors. And after signing a minor league contract with the New York Yankees in spring training and spending a little extra time in expanded spring training, he did it. He was back.
And Bollinger didn’t waste his chance. Even if he was heading back to the Tampa to rejoin Yankees extended spring training after the game.
The RailRiders southpaw pitched five innings of one-run baseball and even left with the lead before the bullpen collapsed in the middle innings as the Columbus Clippers (8-9) came back to take down Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 3-2.
“It was a great experience,” Bollinger said. “Getting the chance to pitch in Triple-A, especially for this organization, that’s just a great feeling and to go out there — the way the game went, I was very happy with it. All together just happy with everything.
“Obviously the goal is to still make it back to the big leagues, but it’s a game I love playing. I can’t imagine anything else. Yeah, I just stick with it and see what happens.”
RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell didn’t know much about Bollinger when he joined the team on Tuesday. But he came away impressed.
Bollinger only gave up four hits and two walks with the one run coming on a Brandon Barnes solo shot. He struck out five batters as well.
“We got him through five and he did a great job. He did fantastic,” Mitchell said. “He was really nervous at the beginning — you couldn’t really tell, but he was — and really pitched well. Mixed his pitches well and did a really good job. Really pleased with how he pitched.”
But the RailRiders didn’t go away without a fight late in the game.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s best chance came in the bottom of the ninth inning when Tyler Wade got on with a lead-off bunt single. The 22-year-old shortstop was able to steal second and third base to set up a great threat with just one out. But Shane Robinson struck out on four pitches and then Mike Ford flew out to deep left to end it and strand Wade on third.
“You always want to win, but, I mean, that’s baseball. (Neil Ramirez) had good stuff on the mound and you just try to grind out at-bats,” said Wade, who was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk. “I’m just trying to get my timing back and help the team any way I can.”
Papi gets start
After sitting on the bench in Monday’s season finale, Clipper right fielder Mike Papi got the start and hit seventh. He was 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
The Tunkhannock grad laced a single to center field in Columbus’ two-run sixth inning. Columbus shortstop Yu Chang ran home on the play, but was thrown out by Robinson. Papi advanced to second on the throw.
New York Yankees 3B Brandon Drury is joining the RailRiders on Wednesday. Drury, who’s on the 10-day disabled list with severe migraines, is expected to play seven innings at third base in the series finale against the Clippers, have an off day on Thursday and travel to Lehigh Valley Friday to play nine innings against the IronPigs. Mitchell doesn’t expect Drury to stay with the team past Friday. … Former RailRiders RHP David Hale was designated for assignment late Monday night after the Yankees had traded for Washington Nationals RHP A.J. Cole and added him to the 40- and 25-man rosters.
The Empire Gives Back
In a response to the Pawtucket Red Sox’s Evil Empire Weekend, which is taking place when the RailRiders travel to McCoy Stadium May 5 and 6, the RailRiders are holding the Empire Gives Back event on May 4, which is set to be Star Wars Night.
With the PawSox coming to town, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre partnered with Yankees first baseman and former RailRider Tyler Austin to raise money to befit the Children’s Miracle Network and the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation.
Austin, who’s is cancer-free after being diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 17, started a t-shirt fundraiser during the month of April through Athletes Brand in which all of the proceeds go to the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation. A limited supply of Austin’s “Ball Out” t-shirt will be on sale and the RailRiders will wear custom Star Wars-themed jerseys that will be auctioned off to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.
The RailRiders will also donate 26 percent, which is Austin’s number, of all walk-up ticket sales to his fundraising effort.
“There is nothing evil about this empire,” RailRiders team president and general manager Josh Olerud said in a press release. “We have the chance to be leaders on many different levels, and the ability to partner with Geisinger, the Children’s Miracle Network as well as Tyler Austin’s fundraising efforts for the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation shows that the force of good is strong in Northeast Pennsylvania’s Minor League Baseball club.”
For Pawtucket’s Evil Empire Weekend, any fans named Joe or Kelly will be admitted for free while any “self-identifying” fans named Tyler or Austin will be “banned from the premises.” The weekend stems from the Yankees’ April 11 brawl with the Boston Red Sox after reliever Joe Kelly hit Austin with a pitch.
Columbus 3, RailRiders 2
PB: Higashioka; OA: Robinson; PO: Bollinger, Coshow; LOB: Columbus 9, RailRiders 11; 2B: Change (6), Wade (1); HR: Barnes (2); SB: Haase (1), Robinson 2 (4), Wade 2 (2).
Columbus`010`002`000 — 3
RailRiders`200`000`000 — 0
Head (W, 1-0)`0.1`0`0`0`0`1
Marshall (H, 1)`2`0`0`0`0`1
Ramirez (S, 2)`2`2`0`0`0`4
Harvey (BS, 1)(L, 0-1)`1`4`2`2`0`0
HBP: Allen (by Coshow).
Umpires: Erich Bacchus, HP; Dan Merzel, 1B; Brian Peterson, 3B.
Time: 3:06; Attendance: 4,356.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle