Zane Chavez had been scuffling at the plate heading into the 10th inning Tuesday night. Hitless in his last 13 at-bats, the Frederick Keys' catcher ended his slump in game-winning fashion, slugging a walk-off two-run homer to right field.
Chavez's home run, his fourth of the year, capped a three-run 10th-inning rally for the Keys, which sent Frederick to a dramatic 7-6 victory over Lynchburg in front of 4,205 at Harry Grove Stadium.
"Just trying to stay within yourself and not do too much and hit the ball hard," said Chavez of his mindset entering his game-winning at-bat. "Unfortunately, I've been missing some balls and I finally got one and hit it hard."
The victory moves Frederick to 31-26 and into second place in the Carolina League North, a half-game ahead of Lynchburg (30-26) and two games back of first-place Potomac, with 13 games left in the season's first half.
Lynchburg took a 6-4 lead in the top of the 10th, Matt Lipka hitting a two-run homer off reliever Gene Escat. Nicky Delmonico, who went 4-for-5 Tuesday night, started Frederick's extra-inning rally with a long solo homer, his team-leading eighth of the season, to right-center field off John Cornely. Michael Ohlman then singled to left and after Christian Walker struck out, Chavez tattooed a 2-2 pitch for the walk-off win.
"I was leading off, I was just trying to find a way to get on. Get a good pitch to hit and get on," said Delmonico of his 10th inning at-bat. "It was a huge win. Chavez hat a great at-bat, so did Ohlman, taking a 3-2 pitch and hitting the ball hard. It was huge for us."
Johnny Ruettiger gave the Keys a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh, connecting for his first home run of the season, a towering fly ball that landed just beyond the fence in right-center field. His blast would have been the game-winning hit had Kyle Kubitza not extended the game in the bottom of the ninth, taking and Escat pitch out of the park for the game-tying, two-out solo blast.
Escat (2-4) earned the win despite allowing three runs in two innings pitched. Keys starter Zach Davies lasted five innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on seven hits and striking out four. Miguel Chalas made his Carolina League debut, relieving Davies and throwing three scoreless frames.
Cornely (1-1), who entered the game at the start of the 10th inning, suffered his first loss of the year, recording just one out.
Lynchburg scored first Tuesday, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth when Robby Hefflinger scored from second after third baseman Delmonico booted a bouncing groundball, deflecting it into left-field. Walker tied the game up in the bottom half of the inning, slugging a solo homer, his third of the season, off Hillcats starter Jarrett Miller.
In fifth, Lynchburg retook the lead with a pair of runs off Davies. Kubitza led off the inning with a bunt single and Hefflinger followed with a double, moving Kubitza to third. Elmer Reyes scored Kubitza with a groundout to second base and Matt Weaver put the Hillcats ahead 3-1 with an RBI single to right.
But again, Walker answered for the Keys and tied the game. With two outs and the bases loaded via a single and a pair of walks, Walker lined a 2-2 pitch into center field, scoring Ruettiger and Delmonico, who slid in just ahead of the catcher Shawn McGill's tag.
Miller was pulled following Walker's single, having thrown 4.2 innings and allowing three runs on six hits and three walks.
Kubitza finished 3-for-4 with a homer and stolen base and Lipka had two hits and two RBIs. For the Keys, Walker finished 2-for-5 with a solo homer, among Delmonico's four hits was his eighth double of the season and Chavez went 1-for-5 with a pair of RBIs.
"Zane's been one of our most consistent hitters and in the last three or four games, you know, he hasn't looked real good at the plate," said Keys manager Ryan Minor. "… But he (Chavez) squared some balls up, got some good swings tonight and we were really fortunate (that) we had a guy that left a ball up and he did a good job putting a good swing on it."
The Keys host Lynchburg in game three of this four-game set tomorrow at 7 p.m., Celtic Night at Harry Grove Stadium. Eduardo Rodriguez (6-2, 3.13) starts for the Keys against Lynchburg's A.J. Holland (3-4, 4.11). For tickets, purchase online at FrederickKeys.com, by phone at 301-815-9939 or at the Keys' box office at Harry Grove Stadium.