Titans Take Down ValleyCats as Rivalry Boils

It’s clear that after a split in a four-game series, the Ottawa Titans and the Tri-City ValleyCats are not big fans of one another. On Thursday night, the benches cleared for the second time in as many nights, after Evan Grills plunked Carson McCusker, likely in response to McCusker’s bat flip after a home run on Wednesday night. As the rivalry reached another level, the Titans secured themselves a 3-2 win, climbing back within a half-game of the ValleyCats in the standings.

“You try to say ‘hey, they all count the same,’ but that was a big game, especially after losing the first two in the doubleheader,” said Titans’ manager Bobby Brown. “To get back even with them and them leave here in the same spot they were in when they got here is huge for this playoff race.”

In the third inning, Grills left the game with what Brown called a hamstring injury, forcing the bullpen into early action. Gavin Sonier was the pitcher of choice in that situation, and allowed just two runs coming on a home run from Brantley Bell. Following him, it was Grant Larson and Kevin Escorcia to shut things down, and that’s exactly what they did.

Gavin Sonier, Ottawa Titans – Tim Austen / Ottawa Titans

“I really praise Gavin for that, that’s not easy to do,” Larson said. “For someone to come in who is mainly an eighth-inning guy like Sonier is, to come in for the third inning and need to get some strikeouts and mentally lock in two hours before he’s used to, I praise him for that. Kevin is just Kevin. He’s untouchable, you can’t hit him.”

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“I just kept getting ground outs and flyouts, letting my defence do the work for me. That’s what I have been doing all season,” said Larson. “I just kept doing that, and I didn’t want to change anything. Obviously, I knew I had to go multiple innings tonight with Grills getting hurt, which is something you never want to see, but you have to pick up someone else’s job.”

“The bullpen was great today,” Brown said. “Gavin was spectacular coming in in a tough spot, not expecting to pitch. Larson was spectacular, and you saw Escorcia.”

Larson, who threw four innings of one-hit ball, says that the length of his outing was starting to hit him at the end, but he was able to keep grinding and give his manager the outing he needed.

“That last inning was definitely a little tiring towards the end,” Larson admitted. Stuff wasn’t snapping like I wanted it to, but I got the weak contact I needed.”

The past two games have been a big turnaround for the Titans. Brown says his team was angry after being blown out in both halves of the doubleheader, and came back to the diamond ready to go for the past two nights. The change was simple, but effective.

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“They have come out and played great fundamental baseball in the past few nights,” Brown said.

The Titans are back at Ottawa Stadium tonight to take on the Empire State Greys, a series that is essentially a must-win for Ottawa, as they continue to chase Tri-City for the final playoff spot.


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