Audio: Lubanski's walk-off single
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Chris Lubanski's walk-off single in the ninth inning gave the Wichita Wranglers a 2-1 win over the Corpus Christi Hooks on Tuesday and tied the Texas League Championship Series at one game apiece.
The Wranglers put together a two-out rally in the ninth to break a 1-1 tie against reliever Paul Estrada (0-1). After Mitch Maier flied out to center field and Donnie Murphy struck out, Angel Sanchez smacked a hanging curveball into center field. Brett Groves followed with a hit-and-run single that moved Sanchez to third.
Estrada was one of the league's toughest relievers during the regular season, when he fanned 134 in 88 2/3 innings. After Adam Donachie walked to load the bases, Lubanski waited out several offspeed pitches before belting a 2-2 fastball to right field, bringing home Sanchez with the winning run.
"I think he has the best curveball in the league," Lubanski said. "He got me down 0-2 real quick. I had to bear down. He was throwing a lot of offspeed pitches. I was zoning up on a ball over the plate. I was hoping he would make a mistake."
Lubanski is accustomed to coming through in the playoffs. While he's just 4-for-22 in five postseason games this year, he led Class A Advanced High Desert's playoff charge in 2005 by going 13-for-15 with nine RBIs, seven runs scored and hit for the cycle.
"I think it's the drive and thrill of the playoffs," Lubanski said. "I love being up with the game on the line. I love the adrenaline rush. It's a long regular season, but the playoffs are a different kind of baseball. Every win is so important. That's what gets me going."
While it's a best-of-5 series, the Wranglers treated Tuesday's game as a must-win after suffering an 11-5 loss in Game 1 on Monday.
"We couldn't go down 0-2 against them at home," Lubanski said. "It was hard to lose the first game, but we weren't thinking about it. No one talked about it. We came in, got to work. [Starting pitcher Billy] Buckner came in, shut them down and we manufactured some runs to get a big win."
Buckner dominated the Hooks over seven innings, yielding one run on three hits with eight strikeouts and a walk. Gabe DeHoyos (2-0) followed by surrendering three hits with one strikeout in two scoreless frames.
DeHoyos pitched out of trouble with the game tied in the eighth, 1-1. Osvaldo Fernando opened the frame with a double and moved to third when Josh Anderson bunted his way on. DeHoyos got the first out when Fernando was thrown out at home on Tike Redman's grounder to shortstop Angel Sanchez. He got out of the jam when Hunter Pence fouled out along the first-base line and Walter Young struck out.
The Wranglers scored first, in the fifth, when Hooks starter Ronnie Martinez threw a wild pitch to Alex Gordon with Kila Kaaihue at third. It was Martinez's fifth walk and final pitch of the night.
Buckner gave up one hit over the first five frames, extending his scoreless streak to 21 innings, before Corpus Christi tied it in the sixth.
The first three batters reached as Fernando and Anderson singled and Redman beat out a sacrifice bunt. Pence scorched a liner that was knocked down by second baseman Murphy, who forced Redman at second as Fernando scored.
Chad Reineke tossed 3 1/3 scoreless frames in relief of Martinez, giving up his first hit in three postseason appearances on a sixth-inning single to Billy Butler. Estrada took the loss, retiring two batters before giving up the winning run on two hits and a walk.
Corpus Christi hosts Game 3 on Thursday at 8:05 p.m. ET.
Eric Justic is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.