Lynchburg Hillcats  June 28, 2015

On this date five years ago, the Lynchburg Hillcats had a come back for the ages and, incredibly, just one player who participated in this game remains with the Cleveland Indians.

Things got off to a rapid start as Luigi Rodriguez went deep off Teddy Stankiewicz to start the game and give the Lynchburg a one nothing lead on the first ball put in play. The joy short lived as Rodriguez gave it right back. Tzu-Wei Lin doubled for the Salem Red Sox off Michael Peoples, the Rodriguez misplayed the ball and Clint Frazier earned an error of his own to allow Lin to score. The Sox then grabbed the lead the next inning thanks to a Jordan Weems double and sacrifice fly.

Michael Peoples1
Peoples stands ready on the mound during a 2016 Mesa Solar Sox game. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

Continuing with the back and forth, Bradley Zimmer (he’s the one guy still with the franchise) singled to lead off the fourth and came home on an Eric Haase homer. This one run lead was quickly given away by Peoples, however, when he walked the first two in the fifth, then threw a wild pitch before the first out was recorded. The tying run scored on a fielder’s choice.

In repeat fashion, Zimmer walked, went to second on a bunt, stole third and scored on a Haase single in the 6th to regain a one run lead, but it was squandered again in the bottom half. Three straight singles against Peoples including one from Weems with two on tied the game back up again at the end of six.

Delvy Francisco replaced Peoples in the seventh and the Sox grabbed their first lead since the second inning when Jordan Betts lead off the inning with a homer. Lin knocked in a second run in the inning with a sac fly and the score held with the Sox up two heading into the ninth.

Down 6-4, the Hillcats would mount a huge comeback in the 9th, starting with an Eric Haase walk. Haase scored when Mike Papi went deep to tie the game, but this was just the start. After one out, Ivan Castillo and Rodriguez singled and Frazier walked to load the bases. Zimmer then took German Tavares deep for a grand slam and four run lead. Nellie Rodriguez tried to keep things going with a double, but he was ultimately stranded at third when Haase lined out to end the inning as the Hillcats batted around to end the game.

Things got a little dicey in the bottom half as two reached against Casey Weathers, but Ben Heller shut things down with a bases loaded double play to end the game and earn the save.

Bradley Zimmer
Zimmer waits to hit during 2016 Indians spring training batting practice. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

This season was Zimmer’s first full season with the Indians and the home run was his tenth and final with the Hillcats prior to his promotion to Akron in 2015. Incredibly, his steal was his 29th of the season and he ended up nabbing 44 bases between the Hillcats and Rubberducks. During the following four seasons, he has never come close to reaching that number of steals again, although his power did increase in 2016.

As for Rodriguez, 2015 was his best season as well as he hit 22 doubles, 12 home runs and stole 24 bases before being suspended for PED use in August of that year. He stayed with Cleveland for the next two years, but signed with the Giants as a MiLB free agent for the 2019 season.

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