Brooklyn - Tension, excited hope, disapointed exaltation, wasted opportunities, exhaustion, frustration, finally, one hit, one run and we can all go home.
It is a ballgame the players in Thursday night's matchup between the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees could have won or lost a lot of different ways.
That's no new kind of story. But these aren't seasoned vets. These aren't even seasoned Double-A ballers. These are your hungriest. Most of them in their first year of professional baseball, untamed, unadjusted, but you can see, already, the ones that are quickly adjusting. They ease into the challenge, not without difficulty, but with a clear kind of focus and drive that guys that have been playing baseball all their lives always seem to have.
Thursday night's game that was on display in every inning, every pitch, every botched ball, gutsy play, solid hit and fruitless swing.
Gabriel Ynoa was on the hill for the Cyclones. He opposed the Yankees Andrew Benak. Both righties have had a measure of success with a good dose of failure. The Cyclones have come ahead in the race, with a 19-11 record, while Staten Island has gone the opposite direction, going 12-18.
Ynoa entered the game 1-1 with a 3.30 ERA. Benak came in a bit more bruised with a 5.09 ERA. Despite those numbers both pitchers showed early what they're capable of. The hits did not come, walks were not issued. Not for awhile anyway. Fifteen innings. Clean. The game was won, of course, in the bullpen.
When DH Saxon Butler, the New York Penn League RBI & home run leader, was stopped at third in the 14th after catcher Peter O'Brien singled, that felt like it had to be it. Butler could've been waved home, but Staten Island manager Justin Pope chose to hold him. He explained, post-game, that Matt Snyder was hitting hot. Pope, a first year manager, had to go with his gut. He believed Snyder would get that run home. It's that instinct every manager has to trust. Regardless of the outcome. Pope, like his players, is in the learning stages, too. But that's lesson one. No manager can second guess himself or his players once he's made a strategic decision.
There was no result in that inning, other than Snyder flying out to Mets big name prospect Brandon Nimmo.
Late into the night and diehard fans were shouting, making the game feel a lot more meaningful. The emotions were heightened.
Shaky defense showed up a bit. A few plays were misread. But it didn't lead to disaster.
The ending, for all that dramatic, grueling journey, was quiet and simple.
In the 15th, the Cyclones finally put together an inning that produced a singular result: Dimas Ponce doubled, Jonathan Clark singled, Ponce advanced to third, Richie Rodriguez with a sac-fly, Ponce scored. Staten Island could not make a threat a promise and Tyler Vanderheiden got his sixth save of the season.
Cyclones manager Rich Donnely summed it up.
"Pitching, pitching, pitching," he said on the field as his victorious players filed off the field.
It is a small game in the big picture of their careers, but in their short careers, that game felt big. At least for four hours and twelve minutes.