The second start to the season has not been the Spartans friend. After a fun, two-day All-Star break which featured seven Syracuse Spartans, the team is not quite back to premier form.
The Spartans (20-16) dropped their second straight game out of the All-Star break to the Genesee Rapids (17-19) 5-3. That loss puts Syracuse in second place in the East division, only a half game behind the Cortland Crush.
The East compared to the Western division, is a tight race. Only three games separate the Crush (1st) from the Sherrill SilverSmiths (last). The West, however, is already locked up, as the Hornell Dodgers already clinched their playoff spot and the regular season division victory with a 26-9 record. 17 games separate the division winners from the last-place Rochester Ridgemen, who sit at a lowly 8-25.
Syracuse needs to get back on track if they want to stay in the middle of the race for a playoff spot, and losing their first two games out of the All-Star break is not the way to do it.
Matt Walczak got the start for the Spartans. The left-hander went a solid five innings for the Spartans, allowing four runs, one of which was unearned, on eight hits. He also struck out four batters and only walked one.
The Lincoln Memorial University player made his seventh start for Syracuse and sits at 0-3. While Wlaczak only gave up four runs, the Syracuse offense has not done a lot to help their starting pitchers.
"I think the pitchers have been really good," Catcher Edison Mercado said. "Its our offense that needs to work now."
The Spartan offense has been a bit nonexistent as of late. Coming into the game, Syracuse had only gotten four hits in their last 18 innings.
The Spartans found themselves 2-0 in the bottom of the third inning, when right-fielder Micah Riddick notched the Spartans second hit of the game, a double into the left-center gap. After a walk and stolen base by second baseman Jack Paulson, Mercado notched his 23rd RBI of the season on a groundout to Roberts at shortstop.
After a few more rocky innings, the Spartans agian found trying to come from behind, this time down 5-1. They grabbed two runs back in the bottom of the seventh inning. After a leadoff single (and stolen base) by designated hitter Chris Schad, right fielder Robert Ballinger contributed with a single of his own, leaving runners on the corners. Schad and Ballinger pulled off the double steal to secure another run.
In the same inning, Paulson singled with Ballinger on second. With runners on the corners again, Mercado singled and brought Ballinger home.
Unfortunately, that is all of the scoring the offense could muster. The Spartans did find themselves in a tense situation in the bottom of the ninth, having the bases loaded with only one out and down by two runs. But after a popout and a strikeout, the Spartans went home with their thrid straight loss.
SPARTAN OF THE GAME: Edison Mercado
Mercado recorded his 23rd and 24th RBIs of the season, going 2-4 with two singles, two RBIs and a walk. He recorded two out of the three runs for the Spartans, and had a decent day when hits and runs were hard to come by.