8/22: Just One Thing

In an effort to write more than I have been, I decided to try at least putting together “Just One Thing” about each game I cover. It might be about a particular play, an at-bat, or a guy’s walk-up song. Whatever piques my interest that game. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Clinging to a 3-2 lead, Harrisburg Senators reliever Andrew Istler walked Cam Gibson and allowed a single to Dylan Rosa to begin the eighth inning on Thursday night.

Everyone in the ballpark was certain light-hitting, back-up catcher Jon Rosoff was going to be called on to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Istler’s first pitch, a letter-high fastball, was fouled back over the screen.

Rosoff was able to get the next offering, another high fastball, down but it was a headed right back towards Istler coming off the pitcher’s mound. Third baseman David Masters quickly retreated to the bag, and Tres Barrera made the split-second decision.

“Three…three,” the catcher called out above the din of the crowd.

Istler gathered the ball, wheeled and threw, just beating the headfirst slide from Gibson. The play was instrumental in stalling Erie’s rally in the inning as Istler induced a fly out and pop-out to end the threat.

It was a risky decision by Barrera to go after the lead runner instead of taking the safe out at first base.

“I love the play on the bunt,” manager and former catcher Matt LeCroy said. “I was always brought up that you don’t want to force anything because you still have a double-play in order. In that instance, he (Barrera) felt right about it, and it was a good play.

“It is an instinctual play, and sometimes you screw up, but in that situation, I love the aggressiveness because it allowed Istler to get a breather right there.”

The 5-foot-11 reliever faced more adversity in the ninth inning as well. Erie put runners on second and third with one out, but Istler worked out of the jam to secure a critical opening-game victory in Harrisburg’s series with the SeaWolves.

“This was a big win for us,” LeCroy said. “The guys understand what they are playing for. I think they want to show them that we’re not going to be a pushover because we’re already in the playoffs.”

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