Cyclones win season opener in extra innings

The Brooklyn Cyclones returned to Coney Island’s Maimonides Park April 7 to open the South Atlantic League’s 2023 High-A season against the Jersey Shore Blue Claws.  

Last season’s bench coach Chris Newell has replaced Luis Rivera as manager. Rivera moved up to a roving infield coach position for the Mets’ low minor league clubs. Last year, Rivera and Newell led the Cyclones to the semi-final round of the playoffs with the best second-half league run of the season. 

“We’ve got a good team this season,” said Newell, referring to last season’s St. Lucie championship players who have moved up from the Florida State League. In addition to the St. Lucie players, seven players from last season remain with this year’s squad, while many of last year’s players have moved up to Double-A Binghamton. 

For the Cyclones, the Mets’ 2022 top prospect, catcher Kevin Parada, started behind the plate, while the Phillies’ top prospect, Hau Yo Lee, started at second base. In the first inning of the much-anticipated home opener, the Blue Claws struck quickly, scoring four runs. Brooklyn rebounded in the third inning as Port St. Lucie newcomer Cesar Berbesi tripled in Parada and Jaylen Palmer to tie the game at 4-4.

With the Blue Claws ahead 8-6 in the 10th inning with one out, Palmer made the defensive play of the day as he snared a line drive over third base and simultaneously tagged the base to double up the Jersey Shore runner at third to snuff out a rally to end the inning.

With the Cyclones needing at least two runs to stay alive, another newcomer, Omar De Los Santos, made up for a previous fielding error and smacked an RBI double, followed by Joe Suozzi, who singled in a run to tie the game 8-8 in the bottom of the 10th.

Finally, in the 11th,  Brooklyn loaded the bases for yet another newcomer from Florida, first baseman Chase Estep, who took four straight pitches for a walk that brought Alex Ramirez home for the 9-8 win. It was an imperfect game that saw dropped fly balls, overthrows and fielding errors, but the Cyclones scratched back with key hits to win the game.  

“Once we were down 4-0 in the first inning, I didn’t panic and did what my mentor, former Cyclone manager Rich Donnelly, would do to catch up,” Newell said. “Instead of going station to station we pressed them into making errors by stealing and taking the extra base.”

Acknowledging that the team had played an imperfect game, Newell told his players in the clubhouse, “Good teams find a way to win, but great teams find a way to win even when they play bad.”

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