Espinal provides dramatic finish to F-Cat win

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Santiago Espinal (promotional photo)

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The 5,793 fans in attendance at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, or at least however many of them were left, got their money’s worth on Saturday night as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats secured a thrilling 5-4 10-inning walk-off victory against the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

To say it was a walk-off is something of a misnomer however, as Santiago Espinal’s mad dash to home plate provided the game’s final run while fiving Espinal his fifth stolen base of the year.

Espinal’s sprint to the plate occurred as Richmond pitcher Sam Moll faced Brock Lundquist with a 2-2 count and the bases loaded. As Mol looked down at his glove and adjusted his grip, Espinal made his move, sliding head first into home plate before Moll could even get off a throw.

The amazing finish overshadowed a series of late rallies on both sides that brought the game into extra frames.

After Brandon Van Horn’s RBI single in the second gave Richmond a 1-0 lead, neither side could produce any offensive until a Justin Palacios line drive in the seventh brought around Alberto Mineo, tying things up. Richmond pitcher Caleb Baragar followed up Palacios’ single with a Kevin Smith walk and a full-count pitch that tagged Lundquist, filling up the bases and forcing Raffi Vizcaino to enter in relief.

Vizcaino’s first pitch got a piece of Nash Knight, allowing Knight to advance to first and provide New Hampshire with its first lead of the night.

Richmond regained that lead in the eighth, beginning with Johneswhy Fargas advancing to home from second off a steal and a wild pitch from Fisher Cats reliever Danny Young. That tied things up and Zach Houchins’ two-run blast to left gave the Squirrels a two-run advantage.

New Hampshire tied things up again in the eighth, with Forrest Wall scoring on a wild pitch from Vizcaino later followed by a rare 8-2-6 double play that provided just enough confusion for Espinal to come home.

Baragar and New Hampshire starting pitcher Zach Logue each submitted strong outings in their no decisions.

Logue lasted seven innings, allowing one unearned run off five hits and three walks, striking out eight. Baragar left after 6 2/3 innings, holding a no-hitter into the fifth. He was on the hook for the two runs in the eighth, giving up just four hits and two walks while striking out six.

The loss went to Melvin Adon (1-5) with Bryan Baker (2-3) getting the win for his four outs in the ninth and tenth.

At the plate, Houchings and C.J. McElroy each got two hits for the Squirrels while Wall and Palacios got two hits each for New Hampshire.

Sunday holds the rubber match as Nate Pearson (0-1, 3.66 ERA) takes the mound for New Hampshire against Richmond’s Brandon Beachy (1-1, 3.21 ERA) in a 1:35 p.m. start.