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Cyclones’ wild card run falls short at season finale

Riding a slim two-game lead over the Connecticut Tigers for the wild card spot with just five games left in the season, the Cyclones inexplicitly lost three one-run games in Troy, New York to the Tri-City Valleycats. The timely hitting that the Cyclones had developed in the second half of the season simply went south in the Valleycat series, enabling the Tigers to gain a wild card tie (40-34) with the Cyclones.

“All we can do is win the two remaining games we have left,” said Cyclone Manager Tom Gamboa with the full knowledge that if the season ended in a tie, the Tigers would win the wild card based on Connecticut’s best 4-2 head-to-head record over Brooklyn.

Rising to the challenge in the first of the last two games left, the Cyclones beat rival Staten Island at home in an 11-3 slugfest that featured a three-run homer by Adrian Abreu who went three for four on the night. With Connecticut also winning the same night to maintain the deadlock, the Cyclones traveled the next day to play the season finale at Richmond County Bank Stadium on Labor Day.

In what would turned out to be one of the best pitched games of the season, Casey Meisner (5-3) threw five scoreless innings to win his fifth consecutive game of the season for the 3-1 Cyclone win. Although the last game of the season would end with a win, Brooklyn still fell short of its wild card goal.

Huddled around an iPhone in the Staten Island locker room, Cyclone players kept tabs on the Connecticut game down to the last out. Finally, after a collective groan of resignation, the players informed Gamboa that the Tigers (42-34) had pulled off a ninth inning rally to beat the Lowell Spinners 9-8 to win this year’s wild card.

“My hat’s off to Connecticut; that’s five straight wins for them,” said Gamboa.  “But take nothing away from our guys. I’m really proud of them. They won two must-win games playing errorless ball and gave us great pitching.”

For the most part, youth carried the Cyclones over the season as 19-year-old All Star Marcos Molina finished as the New York Penn League’s top pitcher with a record of 7-3, and as the league’s leader at 91 strikeouts along with the lowest ERA at 1.77 and the lowest WHIP at 0.84. Meisner, also 19 years old, stood out in the second half, and tied for second place with 67 strikeouts.

In the hitting department, All Star third baseman Jhoan Urena, another 19-year-old, set the pace for the Cyclones, hitting .300, good for fourth best in the league. Urena also tied for first place with 20 doubles, and led the league with 85 singles and 47 RBIs.

In addition, Michael Conforto became the Cyclones’ season’s turnabout player when he entered the Brooklyn lineup on July 19. Batting in the third spot, the Mets’ 2014 number one draft pick out of Oregon State helped to break an eight-game losing streak and jump-started the offense for the rest of the season.

Although Conforto wasn’t eligible for All Star consideration due to his mid-July signing out of college, his final numbers (.331; 30 runs; 54 hits; 10 doubles; three HRs and 19 RBIs) over 42 games exemplified his worth to this year’s team and to the future of the Mets’ organization.

Summing up the season, Gamboa stated, “I’m glad we ended the season playing well except for that Tri-City series. These guys were fun to coach and they showed that they could respond to a pennant race.” Noting that he’d be happy to return next season, Gamboa stated, “We had phenomenal fans and a great front office, and we played at a great facility.”

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