Kicking off a three-game series against the Tri-City Valley Cats (1-4) at Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona, New York, the New York Boulders (3-3) were looking to get back to the .500 mark. Despite dropping two out of three games to the New Jersey Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium in Montclair, New Jersey, the Boulders still managed to win their first game of the 2021 regular season and in the Frontier League.
You could not have scripted a better start to the series with New York left-handed starting pitcher Danny Wirchansky producing a masterful performance on the mound. Wirchansky hurled seven shutout innings, allowing three hits, walking three, and tying a franchise record with 12 strikeouts.
“Just bouncing off my start last week, I kind of felt like I needed to improve on my off-speed pitches and for strikes,” Danny Wirchansky said. “In the bullpen I kind of worked with Phil (Capra) and basically said let’s get the off-speed rolling, saw a lot of their (Tri-City Valley Cats) film, they struggle a little bit with the off-seed even though they’re all good hitters so I had to make sure to get my off-speed over because I work in and out with my fastball.”
The beneficiary of early run support on a two-run single from Kevonte Mitchell in the first inning allowed Wirchansky to settle into a groove. After the Boulders tacked on the run in the sixth inning, Zach Kirtley put the game out of reach, slugging a grand slam home run into the right-centerfield bleacher.
“It’s definitely a confidence boost to have it fill in the first inning and knowing that I’m going to make it a lot harder for them to score some runs,” Danny Wirchansky described. “The guys behind me helped me with plays in the field that were unbelievable.”
Zach Kirtley on the grand slam, “It was a lot of fun, felt really good and been struggling the last few games and got four runs on the board for the team. I was up 3-0 then fell back down 3-2 and I just put my best swing on it and worked out.”
On Tuesday night, the Valley Cats grabbed an early 1-0 lead against starting pitcher Matt Valin in the first inning. However, New York responded swiftly in the bottom half of the frame. With the bases loaded and one out, left fielder Jack Sundberg laced a two-run single down the third baseline. Following Sundberg, second baseman Zach Penprase roped a two-run double into the right-center gap.
“We’re starting to find ways to score runs, we’re not even near hitting our stride offensively,” Manager T.J. Stanton explained. “We’re finding ways to get runs across, huge contributions and two-out RBI’s.”
Even with a comfortable margin to work with, Valin encountered trouble in the second inning. With runners on first and second one out, Tri-City shortstop Keaton Weisz crushed a three-run missile into the Short Porch area in right field.
Managing to retire the remaining hitters in the inning, Valin found some rhythm in the third inning. Allowing lead-off double to catcher Oscar Ramos, Valin set down the next two batters and appeared headed for a clean spot until second baseman Steven Figueroa spoiled those plans by ripping a two-out single to right field.
Manager T.J. Stanton made the call to the bullpen, handing the ball off to right-hander Orsen Josephina. Tossing four and one-third shutout innings on the hill, Josephina whiffing six hitters, including the side in order in the sixth, and surrendered two hits.
“He was able to use his pitches very well, and he’s only going to get better,” T.J. Stanton noted. “We needed him to be great, and he did all that and more for us. We can’t win that unless he’s fantastic, and a shame he doesn’t get the win.”
Capitalizing on the wildness of Valley Cats relief pitcher Eddy Tavarez plunking back-to-back New York hitters in the seventh inning, Tucker Nathans delivered a timely sac fly to center field, tying the game up at 5-5. Primed to take the lead with runners at first and second and two outs, Tri-City pitcher Trey Cochran-Gill managed to get Kevonte Mitchell into grounding out to third baseman Juan Silverio.
After Boulders left-handed pitcher James Mulry retired the side in order in the top 9th set the stage for the bottom half of the inning. Shortstop Austin Dennis clubbed a lead-off double to the left-field wall. Advancing over to third base on a sac bunt from Milton Smith Jr., Zach Kirtley strode to the plate and delivered in the clutch again, belting a single into left field as Dennis strolled across home plate setting off a jubilant celebration in the infield.
“Just trying to calm me down, I was a little too excited for the first few games, got back to being myself, slowed things down, and found the barrel,” Zach Kirtley remarked. “We battled all nine innings, put together our best bats when the time mattered, made our pitches, and worked in our favor. It’s part of the resilience of this team, it’s amazing, and we just got to ride the wave and keep it going. Keep that confidence and good energy up every single day from here on out.”
Manager T.J. Stanton on Zach Kirtley, “We knew as soon as we saw him get released by the (St. Louis) Cardinals Double-A he was our number one target. We smoked a cigar and had a beer once we signed him. We knew he was going to be an amazing contribution, got off to a slow start, and it was just a matter of time he’s going to bust it open and have great at-bats and a fantastic hitter.”