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Minor League Playoff Special: Day Five

The LumberKings force a decisive third game. Everett and Bakersfield face elimination.

Cody Cunningham/Jackson Generals
Cody Cunningham/Jackson Generals
Cody Cunningham/Jackson Generals

Mariners affiliates were a combined 1-2 in the playoffs last night, with the LumberKings managing to grab the only win. The good news is that the LumberKings were the only team facing a do-or-die situation. The bad news is that now, both the AquaSox and Blaze have put themselves in must-win contests. Here’s a recap:

Bakersfield Blaze 2 - Visalia Rawhide 3 (A+)

Visalia leads best-of-five series, 2-0

For the second night in a row, Bakersfield fell just short of Visalia. Bakersfield took an early lead on a Braden Bishop bloop single scoring Jay Baum, but Visalia came right back and walloped Bakersfield starter Eddie Campbell in the bottom of the second for three runs. It looked like Campbell would be able to escape the second after he struck out Marty Herum, but a...questionable call on a 3-2 count against Cody Regis by the home plate ump Adrian Gonzalez cost Campbell a strikeout, and the next batter, Victor Reyes, hit one over Joe DeCarlo’s head. Despite an excellent throw from Jay Baum that would have nailed Regis at home plate, home plate umpire called interference on Joe DeCarlo and awarded Regis home plate. The next batter, Fernery Ozuna, hit a two-run home run that would prove to be all Visalia needed to secure the victory. The Blaze had a chance in the fourth, when Kyle Petty walked to lead off the inning and stole second base, but on a Joe DeCarlo swinging strikeout where he barely stepped over home plate, catcher Michael Perez did whatever the baseball equivalent of a soccer flop is and made HP umpire Adrian Gonzalez believe he was interfered with, costing Bakersfield a precious out. Bakersfield had another opportunity slip through their fingers in the seventh, when Joe DeCarlo singled followed by a Braden Bishop double and an Austin Wilson single to score DeCarlo, but Daniel Torres would bunt line out in foul territory (typing every word of that phrase with my fist jammed in my mouth to keep from screaming is very time-consuming!), and then Drew Jackson would ground into a double play to end the inning. Drew did have a killer stab at shortstop that potentially saved a run, so all was not bleak for the tall, handsome prospect (did I say handsome I meant really tall), but the Blaze simply weren’t able to string together enough hits to counter Visalia and their insufferable cowbell-ringing crowd. The Blaze return to the friendly confines of Sam Lynn tomorrow at 7:15 to try to extend their season--and their franchise--for at least one more game.

Top performers:

Braden Bishop, 2-for-4, RBI

Vinny Nittoli, 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K

Cedar Rapids Kernels 1 - Clinton LumberKings 6 (A)

Best-of-three series tied, 1-1

Kevin Gadea tossed a gem, striking out eleven over six shutout innings to help the LumberKings to a 6-1 win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels. The win forced a decisive Game Three in the Western Division Championship Series. Gadea was pitching for the first time in nearly two weeks, but the big righty was as sharp as ever.

On the offensive side of things, Clinton managed to put plenty of space between them and the Kernels in the third and fourth innings. Things got started in the third, with back-to-back doubles by Ricky Eusebio and Rayder Ascanio bringing in the first run. Two batters later, Luis Liberato drove in Ascanio with a single to left.

In the fourth, all of the damage came with two outs. Ascanio drew a walk with the bases loaded to bring in the first run before Chris Mariscal cleared the bases with a two-out, three-run double. The offense stalled from that point on, but plenty of damage had been done. The bullpen was phenomenal in relief of Gadea, with Ronald Dominguez, Lukas Schiraldi, and Matt Walker combining to throw three, one-hit innings.

The rubber match will be played Monday night at 6:30 PM CT. The LumberKings have not announced an official starter as of Sunday night.

Eugene Emeralds 3 - Everett AquaSox 1 (A-)

Eugene leads best-of-three series, 1-0

Danny Garcia turned in a quality start, but the offense failed to do much of anything all night in the Everett AquaSox’s 3-1, series-opening loss to the Eugene Emeralds.

The offensive woes weren’t a result of a lack of baserunners–the AquaSox scratched out five hits, four walks, and a hit by pitch on the night–but a combination of poor situational hitting and the inability to string together baserunners hindered them all game. Their best chance to get back in the game came in the eighth inning, when Donnie Walton singled, Bryson Brigman doubled, and Eric Filia walked to load the bases with no outs. Things quickly went south, however, as Nick Zammarelli struck out, Kristian Brito had a RBI groundout (making it a 3-1 deficit), and Nick Thurman flied out.

The AquaSox managed to get a runner on in the ninth, but nothing materialized, as pitcher Dakota Mekkes finished a two-inning save.

Garcia took the loss after surrendering three runs on four hits in six innings. All of the Kernels’ runs came on the long ball, as Garcia surrendered three solo shots. Robert Dugger provided three solid, scoreless innings of relief to finish the night.

Now, the AquaSox will turn to LJay Newsome to keep their season alive. Game Two will be played Monday night at 7:05 PT at PK Park in Eugene.