WILLIAMSPORT- There wasn't much concern in the coaches of the Williamsport Crosscutters when Domingo Santana misplayed a ball in right field Friday night that indirectly led to a pair of two-out runs for State College.
And even if there was concern about the 17-year old from the Dominican Republic, it all disappeared the next inning when Santana hit a towering opposite field home run into a pair of pine trees some 25 to 30 feet behind the right-center field fence.
Santana hit a pair of home runs, drove in four runs and Justin Beal worked out of jam in the sixth inning as Williamsport won its New York-Penn League season opener over State College, 5-3, at Bowman Field.
Santana came to the Cross cutters after struggling in the early going for Class A Lakewood. The 6-foot-5 right-hander hit just .182 for the Blueclaws with 76 strikeouts in 165 at-bats. But when he got to Williamsport manager Chris Truby told him he was getting a fresh start.
"I told him he was going to hit in the middle of the lineup," Truby said. "He's 17 and has tremendous power as he showed (Friday). And he's going to get consistent play ing time. I think that's the biggest thing for him."
"He's just an athlete," Beal said. "We kind of expect that out of him. He's got tons of power and tons of talent."
Santana put the Cutters on the board in the first inning when he smoked a two-out double to the warning track in dead center field to score Carlos Alonso, who had also doubled. He was then playing in right field in the top of the third inning when, with two outs, Walker Gourley lifted a routine fly ball which Santana initially broke back on. He tried to sprint in and make a sliding catch, but came up short and Gourley reached second with a double.
Gift Ngoepe followed with an RBI single to left field, and after Ngoepe stole his first of two bases, Chase Lyles laced another two-out single to right field to score Ngoepe.
Santana made up for the misplay in his next at-bat in the fourth with a tremendous drive to right-center field on a first-pitch fastball from State College starting pitcher Zack Van Rosenberg. The homer also drove in Micheal Dabbs.
"We're going to deal with (misplays in the field) at this level and that's fine as long as you stay in the game mentally and you don't just quit," Truby said. "To have a play like that and come back and mentally not leave the game, it shows something."
"Domingo is a strong man, and he's a big boy," said Cutters first baseman Jeff Cusick, who had an RBI double in that same fourth inning. "That's just crazy. You see it a little in batting practice. But he's a big boy with a good swing. It's fun to watch."
The Cutters pounded out 11 hits in their season opener Friday night, including six for extra bases. They also likely could have put up even more than five runs if it wasn't for Ngoepe and his dazzling defense at second base.
Ngoepe dove up the middle in the first inning to rob Dabbs of a hit and save a run for the time being. He also made a tremendous relay throw from shallow right field to nail the Cutters' Miguel Alvarez at third when it looked like the Williamsport center fielder was going to have an easy triple to lead off the second. Ngoepe also slid up the middle to stop a ball in the fifth inning and threw out catcher Jim Klocke at first base to save a run in the fifth.
"That second baseman killed us," Truby said. "He played great. On the other side, you don't want to see it, but it's kind of fun to watch. But you don't want to see it all the time. It's getting old after a little while."
Beal got off to a solid start in Williamsport which he needed after struggling after his call up to the Cutters last season. He entered the game in relief of starter Julio Rodriguez (5 1/3 innings, 5 hits, 3 earned runs) in the sixth inning with runners on first and third and just one out.
Beal, who had a 5.19 ERA in six games for the Cutters last year, used the fake-pickoff-to-third-throw-to-first pickoff move before he even threw a pitch and caught Andury Acevedo trying to steal second base. It then took Beal, a 2009 28th-round selection, just one pitch to get Miguel Mendez to ground out and end the inning.
"(The pickoff) was a gift, that's for sure, but we'll take it," Beal said. "It was a play (the coaches) put on and it just happened to work out for us."
"He gets a pickoff and then gets his composure and goes and gets that last out," Cusick said. "A lot of guys will get that pickoff and then think that the job's done. He did a really good job."
"That, in itself, was the ballgame," Truby said.