In a Victory Field record four hours and 41 minute marathon contest, the Indianapolis Indians outlasted the Norfolk Tides 5-4 thanks to a walkoff base hit by Tribe first baseman Matt Hague that plated second baseman Brian Friday in the bottom of the 14th inning on Saturday night at Victory Field.
In an exciting contest that featured multiple extra-inning scoring opportunities for both teams, it was the Indians who finally broke through in the bottom of the 14th when Norfolk catcher Allan de San Miguel was forced into action on the mound. After Friday led off the winning rally with a ground-rule double to right, SS Chase d’Arnaud and CF Gorkys Hernandez drew back-to-back walks to set the stage for Hague, who finished off the victory for the Indians
After both teams failed to score from the sixth through the 11th inning, Norfolk LF Jamie Hoffman ripped a one-out triple to left-center field in the top of the 12th and, after an intentional walk to RF Jai Miller, Hoffman would score on former Tribe C Ronny Paulino’s infield base knock. The Tides tacked on what proved to be a key insurance run later in the frame when a bases-loaded walk by 3B Matt Antonelli forced home Miller to give the Tides a 4-2 advantage.
That insurance tally proved vital for the Tides as the Indians rallied with two scores of their own in the bottom half of the 12th. After falling behind 0-2, Indians 3B Jordy Mercer battled back to draw a leadoff walk before being forced out when LF Jake Fox reached on a fielder’s choice.
RF Brandon Boggs and C Eric Fryer then followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases for Friday, who came through with the first of his clutch extra-inning base knocks, this one a two-run single to left that evened the score at 4-4 and sent the game further into extra frames.
Indianapolis had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the 11th when Gorkys Hernandez drew a two-out walk and moved to third on a base hit by Hague. However, Tides reliever Zach Phillips would induce an inning-ending groundout from pinch hitter Jose Morales to send the game to the 12th.
The Indians jumped out to a early lead all the way back in the first inning thanks to a one-man rally by the red-hot Gorkys Hernandez, who roped a base hit to left, stole second, reached third on a wild pitch and trotted home on a sacrifice fly by Hague. Indianapolis then extended their lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth when Hague belted a one-out double to left and came around to score quickly when DH Jeff Clement followed with a base hit to left.
Norfolk would, however, even the score at 2-2 with one swing of the bat as Miller blasted a two-run home run over the right field fence with one out in the top of the fifth. With the longball, which plated Hoffmann, Miller continues to tear apart Tribe pitching as he has now hit .360 (9-for-25) with two doubles, two home runs and five RBI in five games against Indianapolis this season.
Miller’s blast would, however, be all the scoring Norfolk would manage until the 12th as Tribe relievers Bryan Morris (3.0 IP, 2 H, 2 SO) and Evan Meek (2.0 IP, 1 BB, 4 SO) combined for five scoreless frames of relief. After the excitement of the 12th, RHP Tim Wood (2.0 IP, 3 SO) would wrap up the victory for the Indians with two perfect innings of relief to earn the victory and improve to 2-3 on the season.
While de San Miguel (0.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB) suffered the loss for the Tides, it was Butler University’s own Pat Neshek (1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB) that blew the save in the 12th inning for Norfolk after serving up two runs on three hits and a walk.
Neither starter figured in the final decision despite both turning in excellent efforts. International League wins leader Jo-Jo Reyes (5.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO) could not earn his sixth win of the season for the Tribe despite allowing just two runs while striking out five over five innings of work.
A season of tough luck continued for Tides starter Jason Berken (7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO) who did not figure in the final decision after allowing just two runs on six hits and no walks over seven innings pitched. Despite not allowing more than two runs in each of his six starts this season, Berken has yet to earn a win or even be pinned with a loss.
The Indians and Tides continue their series with a 1:15 p.m. Sunday afternoon contest at Victory Field. April Player of the Month Rudy Owens is scheduled to take the mound for the Tribe, while the Tides have yet to name a starter.