PORTLAND, Maine -- Ryan Goleski's sacrifice fly in the ninth inning lifted Akron over Portland, 6-5, on Saturday to force a decisive fifth game in the Eastern League Championship Series.
Sea Dogs closer Barry Hertzler (0-1) was guarding a 5-4 lead in the ninth when he issued a leadoff walk to Ivan Ochoa. Shaun Larkin grounded out, moving Ochoa to second, and Portland manager Todd Claus opted to walk Trevor Crowe.
The move backfired when Brandon Pinckney delivered a game-tying single to left field. Goleski followed with a fly ball to center, allowing Crowe to scamper home with the go-ahead run.
"At first I didn't realize what they were doing," said Crowe of the decision to walk him in front of Pinckney. "But when I looked back and saw it, I thought, 'I can't believe they're doing this. Pinckney's one of the hottest hitters in the playoffs right now.'"
Jim Ed Warden (2-0) picked up his second win in as many days with two innings of scoreless relief, and Tony Sipp struck out two in the ninth for his second postseason save.
Pinckney, who spent the majority of the season with Class A Advanced Kinston, went 4-for-5 for the second straight game. He is hitting .361 in the postseason after batting .308 in 18 games with the Aeros.
"I was only supposed to come up and fill in for a week," Pinckney said. "But then [Eider Torres] got hurt, and I ended up staying. I didn't get to be in [Kinston's] championship. So I'm hoping to get a ring here."
The Aeros, who dropped the first two of the best-of-5 series, have a chance to win the title if they can win a third straight at Hadlock Field at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Claus didn't sound overly concerned after his team squandered two chances to take the championship on its home field.
"We'll be ready, we've got our ace going [in Devern Hansack]," he said. "I didn't think we'd sweep. They're a very good ball club. They're not going to quit."
The loss spoiled what would have been a very special celebration for Portland's Brandon Moss, who helped erase an early 4-0 deficit with a pair of homers on his 23rd birthday. Moss' second blast, a two-run shot, forged a 4-4 tie in the sixth before Luis Jimenez's solo blast put the Sea Dogs in front.
"Tomorrow is the last game of the season no matter what," Moss said. "We're going to go out there and put everything on the field. Whatever happens, happens. We have to let it play out."
Goleski opened the scoring with an RBI single in the third and Wyatt Toregas hit a three-run homer in the fourth for the Aeros.
Portland's Frank Brooks surrendered four runs -- three earned -- on 10 hits and a walk with five strikeouts in six frames.
The Aeros will start Ronald "Bear" Bay in the finale after considering staff ace Adam Miller, who tossed 166 2/3 innings this season.
"We're going with Bear," Akron manager Tim Bogar said. "This isn't about the Eastern League playoffs. We have to do what's best for the individual. This is about doing what's best for Adam and his career."
Stephanie Storm 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.