RailCats split season opening series with Lincoln

The RailCats and Saltdogs continued their trend of playing drama-filled baseball, as Adam Klein reached on a bases-loaded error in the ninth to push across the winning run in the RailCats 6-5 win over Lincoln on Sunday at U. S. Steel Yard. The RailCats split their season-opening four-game series with the Saltdogs.

The ‘Cats loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth and the game tied at five. Saltdogs reliever Conor Spink walked Steve Liddle and Danny Pulfer, then hit Drew Martinez with a pitch. Spink recovered to strikeout Zac Mitchell and got Chase Tucker to ground into a fielder’s choice, in which Spink threw home to force out Liddle. With two out, Klein sent a routine grounder to shortstop Brad Payne. Payne bobbled it, then tried to flip to second base for the force but threw it away as Pulfer crossed the plate with the winning run.

Eight of the last 14 games between Gary and Lincoln have been decided by one run and eight of the games have also been decided in the final at-bat. Klein pushed across the winning run in both of the RailCats wins in the series. Danny Pulfer set a franchise single-game record with five walks in the game.

The game turned in the top of the seventh inning with starter Will Krout returning to the mound for his seventh inning of work. Mike Provencher dropped a base hit into left field then Krout hit Brad Payne with his next pitch to put two on and nobody out for the ninth hitter in the order Jeremy Mayo. After two failed attempts to get a bunt down, Mayo pounded the Saltdogs fourth three-run home run of the series to take the lead 5-4.

The RailCats responded to Mayo’s three-run home run with a run of their own in the bottom of the seventh. Pulfer walked, his fourth of the game, to lead off the inning and stood at third with two outs. Tucker then hit a slow roller off the end of the bat to short and beat the throw from Payne to score the tying run.

With two outs in the top of the first, Lincoln mounted a rally against Krout. David Espinosa doubled to left, moved to third on Ian Gac’s infield single, then scored on an error at third by Pulfer.

The RailCats responded with a run in the bottom of the first when Cristian Guerrero hammered a double into the alley in left-center to score Mike Massaro who walked with one out. The offense continued to roll in the second with an RBI single from Adam Klein. Klein drove in Mitchell who reached on a two-base error by left fielder Matt Forgatch.

In the third, Pulfer walked, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. He came around to score on a sac fly by Drew Martinez to make it a 3-1 RailCats lead. Dennis Raben answered for the Saltdogs in the fourth with a solo shot to left, his third home run and ninth RBI of the series to cut the lead to 3-2.

Saltdogs starter Ben Henry left after four innings in which he allowed three runs, two earned on four hits, with four walks and two strikeouts. Krout took a no decision despite giving up the lead in the top of the seventh inning. Krout allowed eight hits, five runs (only four earned), no walks and struck out five in six plus innings.

The RailCats loaded the bases in the fifth when Craig Maddox was hit by a pitch, Steve Liddle doubled and Pulfer drew a walk with nobody out. However, Lincoln reliever Moises Melendez escaped the jam without allowing a run. They ‘Cats stranded nine runners through the first five innings.

Klein was hit by a pitch to start the sixth and Guerrero hit a one-out single to center. The runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch and Craig Maddox drove in Klein with a sac fly to center to increase the lead to 4-2.

Clay Zavada (1-0) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win in relief.

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