[Via email from the Bowling Green Hot Rods' broadcaster Tom Gauthier.]
In the longest game in team and ballpark history, the Hot Rods fell one run short to the Asheville Tourists (38-23, 64-66) on Sunday afternoon, losing a 3-2, 16-inning affair. The loss evens the series at one game each, while dropping the Hot Rods to 5-1 in extra innings. The loss also means the Hot Rods (29-31, 63-67) are officially eliminated from playoff contention in their one and only season in the South Atlantic League.
The winning rally for Asheville started with one out in the 16th against Diego Echeverria (3-2). After a walk to Patrick Rose, Delta Cleary lined his second double of the game to the right field wall, scoring Rose from second base for a 3-2 lead. The double was the only blemish on Echeverria’s line, as he worked six total innings in the longest outing relief outing of his career.
Asheville turned that lead over to Adam Jorgensen, who worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to secure the win. He capped off a great day by Asheville’s bullpen, as Tourists relievers threw nine scoreless innings on just three hits and one walk.
The Hot Rods bullpen, led by Echeverria’s six-inning outing, worked 10.2 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits.
The Hot Rods took their first lead of the game in the last of the sixth inning after Asheville broke a scoreless tie in the top of the frame. Facing starting Dan Houston with two down, Isaias Velasquez singled to left, moving Jake Jefferies to second base. Both runners advanced another base on an error by the left fielder David Christensen. After an intentional walk to Mike Sheridan, Jason Corder delivered a two-run singled to the back of the infield behind second base to put the Hot Rods on top, 2-1.
The Hot Rods defense took over at that point, saving the game for Bowling Green on three occasions. In the seventh, on a base hit by Patrick Rose, one run scored to tie the game at 2-2. But on the play Kyeong Kang gunned out Tyler Massey at home to keep it tied at 2-2. In the 11th still tied at 2-2, Mike Sheridan made a diving stop on a ground ball by Massey to end the inning with runners at the corners.
The biggest save came in the top of the 13th inning. Asheville loaded the bases on a double, a hit batter, and a walk by Diego Echeverria, at the time in his third inning of work. After a visit by pitching coach RC Lichtenstein, Echeverria induced a ground ball from Thomas Field to shortstop, forcing out Kiel Roling at home. The next batter, Massey again, rolled into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and the threat.
Echeverria ended up working five scoreless innings before allowing the winning run in the 16th. He allowed three hits, five walks, and one hit batter. He stranded eight base runners and held the Tourists to just one hit in eleven at-bats with men in scoring position.
Neither starting pitcher figured into the decision as Chris Andujar lowered his ERA to 2.75, fourth-best in the South Atlantic League. He allowed one run on two hits, which came in the sixth, over 5.1 innings. Houston allowed just two runs over seven innings in his third outing against the Hot Rods.
In addition to the great defense in extra innings the Hot Rods turned their first triple play in team history, pulling off the feat in the top of the first inning. Facing Andujar with runners at first and second, Jordan Pacheco lofted a ball to right field. Jason Corder made a sliding catch for the first out. Both runners were off on the pitch, so Corder threw to first base for the first out before Sheridan ran to second and stepped on the bag to retire Delta Cleary for the final out.
The series comes to an end on Monday morning with the final meeting between the two clubs. RHP Shane Dyer (1-9, 5.56) gets the ball for the Hot Rods against Asheville RHP Jonathan Aristil (3-8, 5.36). First pitch is 11:05 AM for a special Education Day matinee. Gates open at 9:30 AM for season ticket holders and 10 PM for the general public. For tickets, visit bghotrods.com You can follow the game on the radio beginning at 6:20 PM with Tom Gauthier on 1340 WBGN and www.bghotrods.com.