Clippers lose lead, but win series, game in last at bat
The first series of the 2012 season was a victorious one for the Columbus Clippers.
With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday, Louisville Bats reliever, right-hander Nick Christiani, walked Clippers’ right fielder Trevor Crowe to give Columbus a 5-4 lead. Louisville had taken a 4-3 lead in the top half of the inning.
The RBI walk by Crowe proved to be a game-winning one, and with a 7-4 win, Columbus (3-1) took the final game in a four-game series against the Bats (1-3) on a sunny afternoon in front of 6,157 fans at Huntington Park in Columbus.
“Today was a good win for us, to be able to battle back—(Louisville) took the lead there in the eighth, and we put together some really good at bats there,” Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh said.
Clippers’ starter, left-hander Scott Barnes (1-0), paved the way for Columbus, giving up one run on one hit, striking out seven, in six innings of work.
Right-hander Chad Reineke (0-1) was on the mound for Louisville, and he also lasted six innings, but allowed three runs on six hits in the process.
Barnes,got off to a crisp start. Barnes struck out the first two batters of the game, and got Bats’ center fielder Denis Phipps to ground out to third for a one-two-three top half of the first inning.
Following a scoreless bottom of the first by Columbus, Louisville struck in the top half of the second. Bats’ first baseman Daniel Dorn and right fielder Bill Rhinehart walked, and Barnes loaded the bases after an errant fastball hit Bats’ shortstop Paul Janish in the back. Louisville catcher Dioner Navarro made Barnes pay for his mistake with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Dorn.
It didn’t take long for Columbus to answer.
The Clippers scored three runs in the bottom of the second inning. The first came on a line-drive single to center field by catcher Matt Pagnozzi, and the other two from a high-arching double by shortstop Gregorio Petit that bounced off the wall awkwardly in right field, allowing Pagnozzi to score all the way from first base.
Sarbaugh said playing in front of a home crowd enables his team to play well from behind.
“I think the guys feed off of (the crowd). I’ve really been happy this first series on how we’ve approached the game,” he said.
After four scoreless innings, Louisville got within one on another sacrifice fly to left by Navarro, this time off Clippers’ right-handed relief pitcher, Frank Hermann, who replaced Barnes in the top of the seventh inning.
An inning later, Louisville took the lead.
With two outs, and Bats’ second baseman Kristopher Negron on second base after bunting for a hit and stealing, Dorn took a pitch from Columbus’ right-handed relief pitcher Chen Lee for a ride. Dorn smoked a fastball over the right field fence and out of the ballpark to give the Bats a 4-3 lead.
Columbus had another answer in them, though, in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Second baseman Cord Phelps reached base on an error by Bats’ third baseman Chris Valaika, and designated hitter Matt Laporta doubled to left. Three batters later, after Columbus third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall was intentionally walked, left fielder Ryan Spilborghs tied the game with an RBI single to right.
Christiani then walked Crowe, and Pagnozzi followed the walk with a single to left that scored two to give Columbus a 7-4 lead heading into the ninth inning.
Sarbaugh said he was impressed with the approach his team had at the plate in the game’s deciding moments.
“They battled. They didn’t go out of the strike zone. We were able to wait for our pitch and they handled it,” he said.
Clippers’ closer Jeremy Accardo made quick work in the top half of the final inning, and recorded his second save of the year.
Sarbaugh said he is pleased with the way his team has looked so far this year.
“I thought we’ve played pretty well defensively. Our pitching’s been pretty good, and we just have to keep trying to work and get better,” he said.
Columbus hosts Indianapolis in the first of a four-game series starting Monday at 6:35 p.m. at Huntington Park.