Playoff Recap: 9/10
Series Tied 1-1; Game 3 Friday at Trenton
AKRON, OH – The Aeros blew a five-run lead, scored seven runs in the bottom of the eighth, then watched as Trenton rallied and got the tying run to the plate in the ninth before Erik Stiller finally recorded the elusive 27th out as Akron outlasted the Thunder 13-10 in game two of the Eastern League Championship Series Wednesday night at Canal Park. The best-of-five series is now even at a game apiece, with game three set for 6:05 p.m. Friday night in Trenton.
Stephen Head’s sacrifice fly put Akron ahead 1-0 in the first, and the Aeros tallied three times in the third on a two-run single by Wes Hodges and a run-scoring wild pitch. The Thunder got on the board in the fourth with an RBI single by James Cooper, but Bronson Sardinha lined a two-run, inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the inning to make it 6-1. Sardinha would have settled for a triple on the play, but alertly saw Trenton infielder Reegie Corona with his back to the plate after receiving the throw from Edwar Gonzalez, and raced the final 90 feet for his first post-season home run.
The Thunder erased every bit of the margin in the next three innings however, scoring three times in the fifth while knocking starter J.D. Martin from the game, and then getting a pair of run-scoring groundouts in the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game at 6-6 and deflate the crowd of 3,374 who braved the brisk temperatures.
Akron was undeterred however, rebounding from the disappointment with a season high-tying seven runs in the bottom of the eighth. Wyatt Toregas opened the inning with a single to left, which third baseman Kevin Russo couldn’t get to since he was guarding the line. Matt Whitney the followed with the first sacrifice bunt of his career to advance Toregas to second, and after a walk to Nathan Panther, Brandon Pinckney somehow squeezed an RBI double between Russo and the chalk to score pinch-runner Brandon Chaves with the go-ahead run. The Aeros were far from finished though, as another walk to Josh Rodriguez loaded the bases and Sardinha hammered a fastball into the right field corner for a two-run double and a 9-6 lead. Matt LaPorta followed with an RBI single, two runs scored on a throwing error by shortstop Ramiro Pena, and Whitney capped the inning with a sac fly. It almost wasn’t enough.
An error by Hodges opened the top of the ninth, but after a walk closer Randy Newsom got a fielder’s choice and an RBI groundout as Trenton had a man at second with two outs, trailing 13-7. Then Pena walked. And Austin Jackson followed with a two-run double to left-center to make it 13-9. And Chris Malec plated Jackson with an RBI base hit to center to make it 13-10. And Colin Curtis walked, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. Finally, with manager Mike Sarbaugh down to his last available bullpen arm, Stiller got P.J. Pilittere on a sharp grounder to second to end the game.
Neil Wagner (2-0) earned the win after retiring the only man he faced in the eighth, while Kevin Whelan (1-1) suffered the loss. Stiller’s save was his first of the post-season. Sardinha was the star at the plate, going 4-5 with a double, a homer, three runs scored and four RBI, while Hodges went just 1-5 but drove in his first three runs of the playoffs. The Thunder left nine men in scoring position over the last seven innings.
Game three in this best-of-five series is set for 6:05 p.m. Friday in Trenton, with Ryan Edell (1-0, 1.23 ERA) going for Akron and George Kontos making his first start of the playoffs for Trenton. The game broadcast begins at 5:50 p.m. on SportsRadio 1350 AM and online at www.akronaeros.com.