Second baseman Pedro Ruiz laced a two-out walk-off single into right field in the bottom of the twelfth inning as the South Bend Silver Hawks won an extra-inning marathon 5-4 over the Dayton Dragons to complete a three-game sweep. The bullpens were the story of the game as four South Bend (51-30, 7-5) relievers combined to throw six shutout innings and the Dayton (33-48, 5-7) bullpen retired 17 out of 18 batters before left fielder Mike Lang laid down a two-out bunt single to start the twelfth inning rally. The teams combined for 24 strikeouts.
Neither team wasted any time getting on the scoreboard as the Dragons and the Silver Hawks combined for five runs in the first inning. Dayton right fielder Beau Amaral led off the game with a ground ball single through the shortstop hole off of Hawks starter Kyle Winkler. Second baseman Sammy Diaz followed with a hit-and-run single to the left side to put runners at first and second. Winkler then walked Dragons left fielder Jesse Winker to load the bases with no outs. First baseman Seth Mejias-Brean struck out for the first out of the inning before Winkler uncorked a wild pitch straight to the backstop that allowed Amaral to score from third and advance the other runners to second and third. Center fielder Junior Arias singled through the right side to make it 2-0. Winkler escaped further damage by getting catcher Joe Hudson to pop out to the first baseman and striking out Dragons third baseman Tanner Rahier to end the inning.
The Hawks responded immediately with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. With one out Dragons starting pitcher Nick Travieso walked Hawks right fielder Socrates Brito on four pitches. Third baseman Brandon Drury followed with a ground ball single past the third baseman that advanced Brito to second. A wild pitch moved the runners up to second and third before first baseman Rudy Flores ripped a double into right field to score both runners and tie the game at 2-2. Catcher Michael Perez followed with his fourth double in his last four at-bats, scoring Flores and giving the Hawks a 3-2 lead after one inning of play.
Winkler settled down by pitching a 1-2-3 second inning that was highlighted by a great running catch by center fielder Breland Almadova for the third out of the inning, robbing Amaral of extra bases. After the Hawks went down quietly in the bottom of the second, Dayton, the Class-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the third inning. Diaz led off the inning with a walk and Winker followed with a ground ball single to right that put runners on first and second. Mejias-Brean hit a tailor-made double play ball to shortstop but Ruiz was unable to complete the play as his throw to first was well wide of the bag, allowing Diaz to score on the E-4.
South Bend, the Class-A affiliate of the National League West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Left fielder Michael Lang hit a one out triple to deep right-center field. Ruiz hit a ground ball to second with the infield in but Lang used his speed to score on a head-first slide as the play went to first base. The lead did not last however, as Dayton tied the game in the top of the fifth inning. Amaral led off with a line drive double down the left field line. Diaz laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher to advance Amaral to third base with one out. Winker then tied the game with a bouncing ball to first that scored Amaral.
Both offenses lay dormant through the next five innings as neither team could score again before extra innings. The two pitching staffs combined to retire fifteen batters in a row from the top of the fifth into the bottom of the seventh. Enrique Garcia came in for Winkler to start the top of the seventh inning and he pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Meanwhile, Joel Bender replaced Travieso to start the bottom of the seventh for the Dragons. He also threw two scoreless innings, allowing just one base runner.
The Dragons mounted the only real threat before extras in the top of the ninth against Hawks closer Enrique Burgos. Notre Dame alumnus Joe Hudson led off the inning with a walk. Rahier followed with a base hit to left, putting runners at first and second. Shortstop Humberto Valor tried twice to get a bunt down but failed both times, and then hit into a 6-4-3 double play. With two outs and Hudson on third base, Burgos struck out designated hitter Brent Peterson on a breaking ball in the dirt to get out of the inning.
Kyle McMyne took the hill for Dayton in the ninth inning and pitched two dominant innings, striking out four of the six Silver Hawks he faced and retiring all six. Chris Capper relieved Burgos to start the tenth inning for the Hawks. He tossed two scoreless innings and helped himself out in the top of the eleventh by starting an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play. Thomas Brendel (3-0) pitched a perfect twelfth inning for the victory for South Bend.
Jesus Adames (1-2) pitched a scoreless eleventh inning before surrendering the walk-off hit in the twelfth. With two outs, Lang laid down an impromptu bunt single to start the rally. That was the first hit for the Silver Hawks since Lang’s triple in the fourth inning. Lang then stole second base to set up Ruiz’s game-winning single.
The Hawks will start a two-game series with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Class-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, on Tuesday night. San Diego Padres shortstop and National League stolen base leader Everth Cabrera is expected to begin his rehab assignment with the TinCaps. First pitch is at 7:35pm. Walker Weickel (2-3, 4.75 ERA) starts for the Tin Caps while Brad Allen (2-4, 6.79 ERA) gets the start for the Hawks. Come celebrate an early Independence Day with the Silver Hawks as there will be a fireworks spectacular after the game. It is also South Bend Blue Sox night with Betsy Jochum, a member of the 1943 Blue Sox team, who will throw out the first pitch and be available for autographs throughout the game.