Of course it was on Jeff McNeil’s mind.
But you can’t just hit a home run when you want to.
McNeil, second baseman for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, had already tripled, doubled and singled against the Portland Sea Dogs. He completed the cycle with an eighth-inning home run on a full-count fastball. McNeil’s production was part of the Rumble Ponies’ 10-4 romp Sunday afternoon, before 4,838 at Hadlock Field.
“I was definitely thinking about it,” said McNeil, who had never hit for the cycle in the pros or in college at Long Beach State.
The loss was Portland’s third straight – which followed a four-game winning streak – as the Sea Dogs dropped to 11-22.
“We played two really good games in New Hampshire and then came here and swept the doubleheader (Thursday),” Portland Manager Darren Fenster said. “Then we kind of stepped on the brakes a little bit.
“This is the ebb and flow of the year. We’re going to have good stretches and bad ones. Unfortunately, we’ve had a couple of rough ones out of the gate. But we still have a long way to go.”
The Sea Dogs managed seven hits – including home runs from Josh Ockimey (solo) and Tony Renda (two-run shot) and Jantzen Witte’s RBI double.
But Portland’s pitching, which is last in the Eastern League with a 4.79 ERA, could not contain Binghamton and its 15-hit attack. Peter Alonso also homered for the Ponies, his ninth.
Binghamton’s Tim Tebow, the former NFL quarterback, went 2 for 5 with a double. He was 5 for 14 in the series, upping his average to .260. He’s batting .316 in May.
Sea Dogs starter Travis Lakins (0-1) took the loss, allowing four runs over 21/3 innings. Lakins, recovering from a stress fracture in his elbow, is on a tight pitch count. In his previous three starts, he lasted three innings without allowing a run.
“Just made some mistakes over the plate,” Fenster said. “Wasn’t sharp as he’s been and, to their credit, they put the barrel on the ball.”
Teddy Stankiewicz has been piggy-backing Lakins’ starts. He was roughed up for three runs in the fourth inning but rebounded with three scoreless frames.
In the eighth, Stankiewicz recorded eight straight strikes – for two strikeouts and an 0-2 count on McNeil. But McNeil worked the count full.
“Good at-bat,” McNeil said. “Just looking for a fastball right there. Got it and put a good swing on it.”
McNeil crushed it to the top row of the right-field pavilion for his seventh home run.
McNeil was a 12th-round draft pick in 2013. He missed 2016 and much of 2017 because of various injuries. He’s healthy now and is batting .307.
Binghamton starter Marcos Molina (1-3) held the Sea Dogs to two runs on four hits over six innings.
NOTES: Witte was added to the roster (from Triple-A) and reliever Trevor Kelley was activated. To make room, infielder Tanner Nishioka was sent back to extended spring training (after playing one game) and corner infielder Conrad Gregor was released. Gregor, a minor league free agent, was batting .057 in 12 games. … Ockimey has four home runs in 22 games. … The last Sea Dogs opponent to hit for the cycle was Harrisburg’s Steve Mortimer on Aug. 10, 2007. Batting behind Mortimer that day was Luke Montz, now a Sea Dogs coach. … McNeil is not the best prospect in his family. His younger brother, Ryan, was a third-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2012. He pitched in Double-A last season but hasn’t pitched yet this year as he rehabs from an injury. … The Sea Dogs will go on a week-long trip to Pennsylvania (Reading and Altoona) and return to Hadlock Field on May 22.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-7411 or:
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