May 2, 2014
The last time I wrote one of these columns two days ago, I detailed an insane extra-inning game. I do the same today, but this time it wasn’t the number of extra frames (only one was needed), but instead the sheer insanity of the tenth inning. This column will take us back to six years ago in Eastlake.
It’s a cool (52 degrees at first pitch), cloudy Friday night in Lake County and the nine innings that got us to this point have been crazy in their own right, The visiting Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds) found themselves up 3-0 following a trio of unearned runs in the top of second thanks to an error by SS Paul Hendrix. The Captains quickly retook the lead for starter Jordan Milbrath, who was otherwise solid, with a pair of two-run frames in the third and fourth, a rally highlighted by a third-inning two-RBI triple off the bat of 2B Claudio Bautista (his third of the season already less than a month into the campaign).
Another Bautista RBI, this time on a single on the back half of the seventh-inning stretch, seemed to provide a crucial insurance run. However, reliever Caleb Hamrick (remember this name for later) allowed Dayton a second three-run frame in the top of the eighth to give the Dragons back the lead. The Captains manufactured a run in the bottom of the inning (1B Nellie Rodriguez walked, was advanced to third on a double by DH Anthony Santander, and, after a K-2-3 strikeout by C Richard Stock and an intentional walk of Hendrix, scored on a wild pitch by Dayton reliever Ryan Kemp). A scoreless ninth ensued to bring us to the top of the tenth with the ball in the hands of Captains reliever…
…Caleb Hamrick. Hamrick had pitched the final four innings of regulation with only the one bad frame. Hopefully, he could hurl one more good one and give the Captains a chqnce to win it in the bottom of the tenth. Unfortunately, his tenth was a repeat pf the eighth, allowing two runs while only recording one out. Kenny Mathews got the Eastlake nine out of the inning, but the damage seemed to be done. I was unable to find out if this was a fireworks night, but that would likely have been the only thing keeping all but the most diehard of the 1,170 that came to Classic Park that night from the surrounding parking lots at this point, Those who stayed, however, were in for a treat.
Cody Ferrell came in to pinch hit for Santander and walked to lead off the inning. Stock grounded out, but managed to advance Ferrell, who would score on a double by Hendrix, who now represented the potential game-tying run and was in scoring position. Things started to look dim as RF Josh McAdams grounded out to second. Hendrix was now at third to put the Captains within 90 feet of forcing an eleventh inning, but the Caps were also down to their last out with the number nine hitter coming to the plate.
That hitter was LF and Lincoln-West alum Brian Ruiz. Thankfully, Ruiz lined the ball to center and not only evened the score, but reached third himself on a triple, putting Lake County 90 feet from victory. The comeback was capped when, at 9:46 PM, CF Clint Frazier got a ground ball through the left side of the infield to score Ruiz and send those who were still in the ballpark home happy (Regarding the game being done so early, remember that spring night games in Eastlake start at 6:30 PM).