[Via email from the Durham Bulls Director of Media Relations Matt DeMargel.]
Oneli Perez threw one pitch in the bottom of the 11th inning for the Memphis Redbirds, and it skipped to the backstop allowing Rashad Eldridge to score with the winning run as the Durham Bulls defeated the Memphis Redbirds, 5-4 to win their first Triple-A National Championship.
Tied at four runs apiece heading into the 11th inning, Michel Hernandez led off with a double against Memphis lefty Royce Ring. Eldridge was called in to pinch run for Hernandez and got to work quickly as Ring uncorked a wild pitch allowing Eldridge to advance to third. Ring intentionally walked Ray Olmedo before being pulled for Perez. With Desmond Jennings at the plate, Perez skipped a breaking ball past Brandon Yarbrough and Eldridge came home with the winning run.
RHP Mitch Talbot picked up the victory pitching one inning allowing no runs or hits. Ring took the loss allowing a run on two hits and two walks.
Durham's 12-year, Triple-A resume now includes nine post-season appearances, eight division titles, seven appearances in the Governors' Cup Finals, three Governors' Cups and one National Championship.
Durham took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on back-to-back doubles by Olmedo and Jennings. They grew the lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning beginning with Sean Rodriguez's homer to left field to give the Bulls a two-run advantage.
Justin Ruggiano and Elliot Johnson followed with singles to put runners at first and second before Michel Hernandez grounded into a 5-3 double play. Olmedo kept the inning alive with an RBI-double to left field plating Johnson to make it 3-0.
Jennings then hit a ground ball to first fielded by 1B Mark Hamilton, but pitcher P.J. Walters was late covering the bag and Jennings was ruled safe as Olmedo advanced to third. As Walters argued the call to the first base umpire, Olmedo darted for home, beating the throw by inches to put the Buls on top 4-0.
Durham starter Jeremy Hellickson left the game after five innings with the lead in tact, allowing no runs on only two hits on 73 pitches.
LHP Jason Cromer, a starter all season for Bulls, relieved Hellickson in the sixth inning and immediately gave three runs back. Jon Jay led off the inning with a home run to left field. Tyler Greene singled, then Allen Craig hit an opposite-field home run to make it 4-3 in favor of the Bulls. Cromer then walked Mark Hamilton before being pulled for righty Joe Bateman, who got the Bulls out of the inning with a one-run lead in tact.
Bateman got into trouble of his own in the seventh inning. With one out, Bateman beaned Jay then walked Greene and Craig to load the bases. RHP Calvin Medlock relieved Bateman, but couldn't get out of the jam unscathed as David Friese hit a sacrifice fly to center scoring Jay with the tying run.