MOOSIC – It may have taken five games, but the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders finally achieved a few firsts in team history.
Yes, Monday night was a historic night in team history as the first home run was hit and it marked the first time a fat lady dressed in a viking suit sang at the end of the game as the RailRiders defeated Rochester 4-2.
That’s right, those remaining in attendance at the end of the inaugural win witnessed president and general manager Rob Crain dressed in a woman’s viking suit sing Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. Prior to the rendition by Crain, public address announcer Dean Corwin pronounced “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.” That will be a staple after every RailRiders victory. But it won’t be Crain every time.
With the win, the RailRiders improve to 1-4 on the season rebounding from a four-game sweep to defending International League champion Pawtucket over the weekend.
On the field, Melky Mesa hit the first home run in RailRiders history when he crushed a fastball from Daniel Turpen into the Rochester bullpen in left field leading off the bottom of the seventh inning. It was also an insurance run to push the team’s lead to 4-1 after seven innings.
“I made contact I just got to say thank you for that,” Mesa said about the home run. “It’s not win just one game. It’s win a championship, that’s what it’s all about.”
For the third time this season, the RailRiders took the first lead of the game. On Monday it wasn’t early, like the previous two times, as they waited until the bottom of the fifth. In the inning, Mesa broke the scoreless tie with an RBI-single for a 1-0 lead. SWB left the bases loaded in the inning.
That came back to haunt the team because the lead was short-lived. Rochester evened the game at 1-1 in the top of the sixth. After Oswaldo Arcia singled and stole second, Clete Thomas singled to drive him in and tie the score at 1-1.
The score didn’t stay tied for long as the RailRiders answered immediately in the bottom of the sixth. Thomas Neal, who has been the hottest hitter for the team with runners in scoring position entering the game with five RBI, laced a bases-loaded single to left plating two runs to put the home team back in front with a 3-1 advantage. Neal’s been batting in the eighth spot in the lineup, but manager Dave Miley said pop is needed at the bottom of the order.
“I know he doesn’t want to hit eighth, but you need those guys low in the order that come up with a big hit and that’s what he did,” the skipper said.
The shutdown inning the RailRiders have been looking for came in the top of the seventh. Ryan Pope, who was in his second inning of relief, retired the side in order in the frame. The last batter he faced was a former teammate with the SWB Yankees - Doug Bernier. But Pope needed just three pitches to fan Bernier.
SWB starter Chris Bootcheck hit a milestone as well becoming the first starter to last more than four innings. In his first start since June of 2011, he pitched five scoreless innings only giving up five hits, while striking out four. The big stat is that he didn’t walk anyone. Over the team’s first four games, pitchers combined to allow 17 walks. On Monday, the team issued one.
“If you walk guys you’re just asking for trouble,” Miley added. “That’s one of the things our pitching coach Scotty Aldred talks about all the time and (Bootcheck) went out there, first start gave us five innings and not walking guys kept his pitch count down.”
Rochester made the game interesting in the top of the eighth scoring a run to trim the lead to 4-2 before stranding runners on second and third as Cody Eppley got out of the jam with a strikeout of Joe Benson.