Three first-inning runs would prove to be enough, but it never felt that way as the Auburn bullpen worked its way in and out of trouble in each of the last five innings in a 5-2 triumph over Tri-City, taking the New York Penn League Semifinal series to the limit of a deciding Game Three.
Travis Henke would get credit for the win by stranding the two runners he inherited with one out in the 5th inning, thanks in large part to a nifty double play turned by left-fielder Estarlin Martinez, but gave up a run in 6th on a walk and two singles. Robert Benincasa would follow with two high-wire innings, allowing a pair of one-out singles in the 7th before righting the ship with a popup and a flyout, then walking two in the 8th before getting another IF pop and a groundout. Derek Self seemed poised to stop the circus act before he, too, put on two with two outs before retiring Tri-City’s .320-hitting DH for the final out and the save.
Offensively, the Doubledays collected nine hits — same as the ValleyCats — but it was spread across just five hitters, of which just two were back-to-back in the lineup. Those two, Brandon Miller and Wander Ramos, would drive in four of the five runs and hit both Auburn doubles. Miller’s two-run two-bagger opened up the scoring in the 1st while Ramos’s keystone hit plated the final Doubleday run in the 8th. Miller, Ramos, Mike McQuillan, and Shawn Pleffner each hit safely twice.
Starter David Fischer walked four and gave up three hits over four and a 1/3rd innings for the no-decision.
Nick Lee (3-1, 3.77) is the announced Auburn starter for tonight’s deciding game, with Brian Holmes (7-2, 2.57) set to pitch for Tri-City. Both 21-year-olds last pitched a week ago. The winner of tonight’s contest will advance against the winner of the Hudson Valley-Brooklyn matchup tonight, a Game Three in that series forced by an 8-1 Renegade win over the Cyclones 98 miles down the road in West Fishkill.