AKRON, OHIO – The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have been winning all year with their bats, getting critical hits even on the rare nights when they can’t get them in bunches.
Game 1 of the 2018 Eastern League Championship Series goes to the Fisher Cats, thanks to their 3-1 extra-innings win over the Akron Rubber Ducks on Tuesday night.
Akron left the first with a run, as New Hampshire starting pitcher T.J. Zeuch allowed two straight walks, setting the stage a Nellie Rodriguez RBI single to left.
A double play let Zeuch escape the inning without further damage, and he frustrated the Ducks for another five innings after that, finishing the night with four strikeouts against four walks and four hits.
New Hampshire tied up the contest in the fourth thanks to a Joshua Palacios single, bringing Cavan Biggio home, the final baserunner allowed by Akron hurler Jake Paulson, who entered two outs into the first to replace rehabbing major league starter Cody Anderson.
Akron had their chances after the departure of Zeuch, but stranded two men in the seventh and eighth respectively, with both squads going quietly in the ninth.
It would take the tenth inning for New Hampshire to finally rediscover their offense, even without the perfunctory runner starting the extra inning on second, which had been the case during the regular season. Fisher Cats catcher Max Pentecost reached first on four straight balls, with Palacios moving him to second on a sacrifice bunt. Pentecost reached third on a Santiago Espinal single, and Gunnar Heidt then received an intentional walk after Espinal stole second and Pentecost made way for pinch runner Andrew Guillotte.
Into this situation entered 24-year-old reliever Rob Kaminsky.
Kaminsky had a strong summer for Akron, allowing just one earned run over 17 appearances from June 30 to August 23, but gave up an earned run in his final three appearances of the regular season.
After missing high balls on the first two pitches to Fisher Cat centerfielder Forest Wall, the third pitch sailed right down the heart of the plate, with Wall sending a grounder to right, bringing Guillotte and Espinal across the plate.
Although the Ducks gunned out Heidt at third, the damage was done and Fisher Cats closer Travis Bergen retired the side in order in the bottom of the tenth to seal the victory.
Bergen earned his second save of the postseason with the win going to Kirby Snead four his four outs in the eighth and ninth.
Jordan Milbraith was the loser of record, retiring five Fisher Cat batters before being replaced by Kaminsky.
At the plate, Andrew Calica led the way for Akron with a pair of hits and a walk, with Wall adding a double alongside his clutch hit in the tenth.
Former American League MVP Josh Donaldson concluded his rehab assignment hours before the game, following a furor from several major league clubs that his move away from the Blue Jays organization should not have been allowed due to his apparent injured status. Donaldson went 0-for-4 in his Indians debut against Tampa Bay.
The Ducks and ‘Cats meet again on Wednesday at Canal Park with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Jon Harris takes the mound for New Hampshire against Akron’s Kyle Dowdy.