During the top of the first inning of Thursday’s Prospect League game at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point, one play made it clear that it wasn’t going to be the Johns- town Mill Rats’ night against the Lafayette Aviators.
It was also an indicator that the night would belong to Lafayette’s Jayson Newman.
A dropped third strike, plus a throwing error by Mill Rats catcher Tyler Dellerman, allowed Newman to reach base with two outs while Miguel Rivera and Allbry Major came home during the chaos.
Those two runs ignited a bounce-back effort by Lafayette as it handed Johnstown a 14-9 loss.
Newman, the Aviators’ designated hitter, went 2-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs, which came on a two-run blast during a six-run third for Lafayette.
The blast to left was a matter of learning from his first-inning at-bat against Johns- town’s Tom Colcombe.
“He was throwing a lot of changeups,” Newman said. “I don’t like to sit on pitches. I like to see it. ‘Track it and whack it’ is kind of my saying. Stay with it. Stay consistent. He threw me a lot in the first at-bat, so take that into it.
“I’ll go to school and learn what he’s going to do.”
Newman, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound flame-throwing right-hander, also closed out the game with back-to-back strikeouts as the Mill Rats were scraping to dig out of a deficit that was as wide as 12 runs in the fourth inning.
Along with Newman’s fifth home run of the season, Lafayette received solo home runs from Reed Chumley in the seventh and Major in the ninth as the Aviators padded their lead.
Both Major and Chumley had two hits while Carlos Contreras delivered three knocks in the 15-hit assault on Johns- town pitching.
Oscar Ponce and Slaide Naturman also had two hits for the Aviators (12-2 second half, 31-11 overall).
The Mill Rats (7-5, 14-27) fell behind 3-0 in the first thanks to the two runs on the dropped third strike-error combo, and a double to center by Contreras that scored Newman.
“We talked about being able to control the things we can control in that first inning,” Johnstown manager Parker Lynn said. “They were up 3-0 before we got up in the first inning. … It’s just being able to control the things we can control and make the plays we know how to make.”
The Aviators sent 10 batters to the plate in the third, plating six runs with Chumley’s run-scoring double preceding Newman’s home run off Colcombe. Ponce tripled in Contreras two batters later before scoring when Jack Lang grounded into a fielder’s choice. Lang then swiped two bases before coming home on Riley Bertram’s single to left.
Carrying a 9-0 lead into the fourth, Lafayette notched three more runs off Johnstown reliever Zach Rohaley, with Naturman’s single to right scoring two runs.
The Aviators’ dominance was in stark contrast to Wednesday’s series opener, which the Mill Rats won 18-8 in seven innings.
“It was a good team win after (Wednesday),” Newman said. “We bounced back. I’m just here to do my job and be in a place to do it.”
The 12-run cushion was more than enough for Lafayette starter Brett Erwin, despite the Mill Rats solving the side-arming righty with a run in the fourth and three more in the fifth.
Nick Hess scored Trey Lipscomb with a single in the fourth. Damian Yenzi brought in Andre Good in the fifth two batters before Lipscomb’s groundout to second pushed Pete Capobianco across. Yenzi came in on Ben Newbert’s double to right.
The Mill Rats struck for two runs in the sixth against reliever Trayjen Meza with back-to-back doubles by Capobianco and Yenzi producing runs to cut the Aviators’ lead to 12-6.
Lipscomb’s two-run blast to left off Meza in the ninth sparked a last-ditch uprising by the hosts, who got one more run when Hess grounded out to first, scoring Newbert.
Newman fanned Mike Whiteherse and Good to shut the door on any hopes of a miracle comeback.
Lynn’s message to the team was to concentrate on how the team finished after a disastrous start against the Prospect League’s top-flight squad.
“You take the back half of the ballgame, 9-2 whatever that was, that’s what we need to build off of,” Lynn said.
Shawn Curtis is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5085. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnCurtis430.