Auburn, NY - After serving up two passed balls in the top of the seventh that allowed the game's tying runs to cross, Wilfri Pena could have taken his defensive woes with him to the plate. Luckily for the Auburn Doubledays, he didn't. Leading off the bottom of the seventh, Pena crushed a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-centerfield, lifting the Doubledays to 3-2 win over Vermont on Thursday night.
The win knotted the best of three series at one game apiece, setting up a winner take all game three on Friday night at Falcon Park.
While Pena provided a late inning hero for the Doubledays, it was Taylor Hill who was impressive in the early innings. The Auburn starter worked five innings of one-hit baseball, striking out a season-high eight. Sean Jamison led off the ballgame for Vermont with a double, and from then on, Taylor Hill didn't allow another base hit. The former Vanderbilt Commordore left the contest after retiring the final thirteen he faced.
The Doubledays gave Hill some early run support, taking advantage of back-to-back infield hits with a two-RBI double by Billy Burns.
Auburn carried the 2-0 lead all the way to the top of the seventh, when reliever Manny Rodriguez and catcher Wilfri Pena struggled playing catch. After walking the leadoff hitter, a passed ball advanced him into scoring position. Bobby Crocker then delivered a base hit, driving in the Lake Monsters' first run of the night.
A second passed ball allowed Crocker to take second and then third on Dusty Robinson's bunt single. B.A. Vollmuth lifted a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Crocker from third and tying the game at two.
Despite his defensive miscues, Wilfri Pena became the hero on Thursday. With a 3-2 count, Pena launched the pitch from Lake Monsters' reliever Kurt Wunderlich over the left-centerfield fence, putting Auburn on top where they would stay for good.
Manuel Rivera got the win in relief for Auburn, tossing one and one-third innings of scoreless baseball, while Aaron Barrett pitched the ninth for his first save of the playoffs.
Auburn will now host Vermont in the final game of the series on Friday night at Falcon Park. The winner of Friday's game will advance to the league championship and meet either Staten Island or Brooklyn. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 7:05pm. For tickets, please visit www.auburndoubledays.com.