TRENTON, N.J. – In the final home game of the regular season, 6,949 fans got to enjoy some free baseball, though the Trenton Thunder fell to the New Britain Rock Cats 4-1 in 13 innings on Thursday night. Thunder starting pitcher Bryan Mitchell gave fans a real treat on the mound as he set the Trenton Thunder’s season-high for strikeouts in one of the best pitching performances of the year at ARM & HAMMER Park, but was long since departed before this game was decided.
Billed as one of the best pitching matchups of the season, Mitchell faced off with Alex Meyer, the fourth-rated prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization. The duel lived up to the hype early on as both pitchers ran fastballs into the high 90s, with Mitchell topping out at 97 on the radar gun while Meyer was a tick higher at 98. However, the matchup came to an early end when Meyer was pulled after just four shutout innings and 72 pitches despite striking out six hitters.
In just his third start at the Double-A level, Bryan Mitchell displayed dominance throughout his outing. The 22-year-old struck out ten hitters on the evening, setting a season-high for the Thunder, and his 7 1/3 innings on the mound tied Nik Turley for the longest outing of the season. Mitchell scattered just four hits and did not walk a batter. Despite a pair of wild pitches in the sixth inning, Mitchell exhibited phenomenal control, tossing 78 of his 107 pitches for strikes.
The Rock Cats were first on the board after a leadoff triple by Reynaldo Rodriguez in the second inning. Mitchell struck out the next two hitters he faced, but a potential inning-ending ground ball kicked off his ankle and ricocheted towards third base. With Reegie Corona playing deep, no play was made on the ball and Rodriguez was able to score. Mitchell quickly recovered, striking out Evan Bigley to end the inning with the Thunder trailing just 1-0.
Trenton threatened to score in their half of the second when Meyer plunked Kyle Roller and Yeral Sanchez. A one-out single by Reegie Corona would load the bases, but Meyer struck out Francisco Arcia and Ben Gamel to escape the jam. One inning later, the Thunder put runners on first and second again, only to see Meyer escape with another clutch strikeout, this time catching Casey Stevenson looking.
It was the seventh inning when the Thunder finally broke through at the plate. After a leadoff walk was issued to Francisco Arcia, Ben Gamel came through with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt, allowing Arcia to move to second base. After a strikeout of Ramon Flores, Jose Pirela came to the plate with a chance to even the score. Pirela connected with the 0-1 pitch from Daniel Turpen, hitting a single back up the middle that scored Arcia, evening the score at one. Pirela advanced on the throw, and then to third when the cutoff man’s attempt to get him at second base resulted in an errant throw. Trenton would not be able to get Pirela in as a Gary Sanchez ground ball ended the inning.
The game was finally broken open by the Rock Cats in the 13th inning. In his third inning of work, Thunder reliever Manny Barreda hit a batter and walked two more, giving New Britain the opportunity it needed. Left fielder Daniel Ortiz was able to capitalize, ripping an 0-1 pitch from Barreda for a two-out double that cleared the bases, giving New Britain a three run lead they would never relinquish.
Trenton gave one last valiant effort in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases against New Britain closer Ryan O’Rourke after back-to-back singles by Francisco Arcia and Ben Gamel and a walk from Gary Sanchez. O’Rourke would recover quickly, striking out Carmen Angelini looking to end the game.