2011-09-16 / Sports

Fighting Cyclones Season Comes To Heartbreaking End

By Elio Velez

Danny Muno (right) was named the Cyclones Most Valuable player. Photo by William Thomas. Danny Muno (right) was named the Cyclones Most Valuable player. Photo by William Thomas. It was in heartbreaking fashion that the Brooklyn Cyclones saw their season end last Saturday in Staten Island. The Cyclones stranded 11 baserunners in the decisive Game 3 of the New York Penn League divisional series as they fell to the Yankees 1-0.

The Cyclones-Yankees series was strange yet exhilarating, had plenty of shoddy defense and mental miscues, plenty of pitching and some timely hits. Brooklyn had pushed 12 runs across in the second game of the series to force Game 3.

In that last game, starting pitcher Carlos Vasquez was excellent in six shutout innings, Yankees pitchers William Oliver and Philip Wetherell found ways to get out of some major scoring threats from the Cyclones. Yankees slugger Reymond Nunez broke the deadlock in the seventh inning with an RBI triple off Cyclones reliever T.J. Chism to score Tyler Austin from second base. Shutdown reliever Branden Pinder came on in the ninth inning to retire the Cyclones 1- 2-3 and end their 2011 campaign.

“They were great. Just champions,” said Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly. “They shut us out twice in the series. They have a hell of a closer. Tom Stadler [Yankees manager] is a first class guy. It was fun to play them. The best thing about sports is we competed against the best and fell a little short.”

Staten Island would go on to sweep two games from Auburn in the best of three New York Penn League championship on Tuesday.

Donnelly told his players after- wards that they had nothing to be ashamed about. The Cyclones went toe to toe with the Yankees all season in a series of games he likens to a 15- round boxing match in which the opponent slightly won.

“No frustration. If you do your best and play your butt off you have no reason to hang your head,” Donnelly said. “They are champions in life. They are champions in baseball. They’re fighters and winners. I’m so proud of these guys.”

The Brooklyn manager, who has been involved in professional baseball for more than 40 years, remarked how well his team fought through plenty of adversity.

Donnelly said the turnaround for his team was a game against Connecticut early in the season. After a talk with his team, the Cyclones managed to climb back from one game under .500 to put together a solid two months.

They climbed back from nine games down before August and were just a half game out of first place to the eventual McNamara Division champions Staten Island at the end of the regular season.

“My guys fought back when no one thought they had a chance to be in the playoffs,” Donnelly added. “They almost caught these guys. Nine and a half out and they almost caught them.”

Brooklyn was led by Danny Muno, the hard charging second baseman who led the NYPL with a .355 batting average and on-base percentage (.466). He set the all-time franchise record in batting average and with 23 doubles. Muno, who was drafted this year in the eighth round by the New York Mets, was given the Sterling Award for being the team’s Most Valuable Player.

The middle of the batting order was served by CF Travis Tijeron, who, despite playing out of position, let his stick do the talking.

The slugger hit .299, hit 9 home runs, knocked in 44 RBI and also led in slugging percentage.

Richard Lucas sparked at third base, hitting .300 and driving in 41 RBI. RF Javier Rodriguez drove in 43 RBI and shortstop Brandon Brown hit .300 in only 40 games.

While there weren’t one or two standout pitchers, as there were in recent years, pitching coach Frank Viola molded a staff that became consistent at year’s end. Vasquez shined as starter late in the campaign and the bullpen was strong with T.J. Chism and Orlando Tovar, who went 5-1.

Donnelly thinks some of his players have a bright future within the Mets organization the next few years. He’s enjoyed his time managing in Brooklyn, and expressed interest to reporters on Saturday that he would want to return next year.

But the plan for Donnelly now is to go home to Steubenville, Ohio where he will see his wife and children and watch some Friday night high school football.

“I’m going to go home and see my wife. I’ve only seen her six nights in six months. I’m going to spend some time at home,” Donnelly said. “Some of my grandkids are home. Some of my kids are back and my two dogs. I love being at my home. It’s like a little Brooklyn.”

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