Courtesy Vermont Lake Monsters
BURLINGTON — Noah Vaughan had a solo homer for the game’s first run in the fifth inning, while a trio of Lake Monster pitchers held the ValleyCats scoreless until the ninth inning before holding on for a 2-1 victory over Tri-City in New York-Penn League action Sunday evening at historic Centennial Field.
The victory was the ninth over the last 12 games for Vermont (38-37), which with one game remaining clinched a .500 or better season for the second straight season (42-33 in 2017). The last time the Lake Monsters had back-to-back .500 seasons was their first three years back in 1994, 1995 and 1996.
Scoreless over the first five frames, Vaughan drilled a 1-1 pitch from reliever Jose Alberto Rivera (1-2) over the fence in rightfield for the game’s first run and his second homer of the season (the other coming last Wednesday at Staten Island).
Lake Monsters starter Brandon Marsonek, making his first professional start after 37 relief appearances, allowed just one baserunner (a one-out single in the third) over four scoreless innings on 44 pitches (27 for strikes). Marsonek was replaced in the top of the fifth by Caleb Evans (1-0), who allowed one hit with two walks and had one strikeout over three scoreless innings.
Vermont got its other run in the sixth as J.J. Schwarz fouled off four straight 2-2 pitches before hitting a flyball deep enough to center to allow Marcos Brito to score from third base on a sacrifice fly. Brito had earlier reached on a bunt single, moved to second on a walk to Alfonso Rivas and advanced to third on a balk.
The ValleyCats had two hits over the first eight innings, but finally got on the scoreboard off Lake Monster Bryce Nightengale in the ninth on a Logan Mattix two-out RBI single scoring Enmanuel Valdez, who had led of the inning with a single. Ramiro Rodriguez followed with a single to right advancing Mattix to third base, but Nightengale retired Nathan Perry on a lineout to Alfonso Rivas right at the first base bag to end the game.
Kevin Merrell, on a rehab assignment from single-A Stockton, went 2-for-3 with a walk and is now 7-for-12 (.583) in his four games with Vermont. Brito was 2-for-4 and scored the eventual winning run, while Nightengale tossed two innings for his second save.
The victory was also Vermont’s 13th one-run victory of the season, while the Lake Monsters are also 24-11 when scoring first, 19-7 when hitting a home run and 27-9 when they outhit their opponent in a game.
Vermont and Stedler Division champion Tri-City (42-32) will wrap up the 2018 NYPL regular season at Centennial on Monday starting at a special Labor Day time of 1:05 pm.