Jaime Pedroza hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, then walked to spark the winning rally in the 11th on Saturday as the Great Lakes Loons outslugged the Fort Wayne TinCaps, 11-10, in the opener of the Midwest League semifinals.
Continuing the first playoff appearance in team history, Great Lakes came back four times against the club with the best full-season winning percentage in the Minor Leagues.
The Loons erased deficits of 4-0 and 6-4 before first-round hero Cole Figueroa delivered an RBI single and scored in Fort Wayne's three-run ninth. But Brad Brach, who led the league with 33 saves during the regular season, could not close it out.
Nick Buss and Midwest League co-MVP Dee Gordon opened the bottom of the frame with singles and Pedroza hit his second postseason homer to force extra innings.
The TinCaps again grabbed the lead in the 11th as Vincent Belnore hit a leadoff double and scored when Buss misplayed Figueroa's single to center field.
Unfazed, Great Lakes answered as Pedroza drew a one-out walk, Anthony Hatch singled and co-MVP Kyle Russell walked to load the bases. Alfredo Silverio tied it with a sacrifice fly and Sands won it with his only hit of the night.
Gordon and Buss each had three hits and scored three times for the Loons, while Jordan Pratt (1-0) retired all three batters he faced for the win.
Justin Baum went 3-for-6 with a pair of RBIs and Jaff Decker hit a two-run homer and scored three times for the TinCaps. Fort Wayne hosts Game 2 of the best-of-3 series on Sunday.
In other Midwest League action
Burlington Bees 3, Cedar Rapids Kernels
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.