SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Facing an 0-2 count and feeling overmatched by South Bend relief pitcher Daniel Gibson's fastball, Quad Cities third baseman Rio Ruiz battled until he saw something off-speed.
And when the Astros' No. 14 prospect finally got that curveball from Gibson in their two-out duel in the top of the eighth inning, he smacked it to right field to score Danry Vasquez from third en route to Quad Cities' 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the Midwest League Championship Series on Wednesday.
The River Bandits took a 1-0 lead in the third when Silver Hawks starting pitcher Braden Shipley walked Brian Blasik, gave up a single to Anthony Kemp and then issued two more free passes to walk in a run.
Fidel Pena's two-run blast put South Bend on top, 2-1, in the fourth, but Jordan Scott knotted the score with a solo shot in the seventh.
Top Houston prospect Carlos Correa opened the eighth for the River Bandits with a single, and he was forced out on a fielder's choice grounder by Vasquez. An errant pick-off throw by Gibson allowed Vasquez to race to third. Bobby Borchering struck out and then Ruiz singled in the go-ahead run.
"Gibson is a great pitcher," said Ruiz, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound left-handed hitter who was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft. "His stuff was moving all over the place. I was just trying to do my part and battle my butt off. It was a great battle between him and I. I was lucky I got away with a pitch. All the fastballs he was throwing were blowing by me. I was just trying to get a piece of the ball and foul them off. I got my pitch and just tried to put the bat on the ball and good things happened."
Quad Cities manager Omar Lopez, who played in South Bend in 1998 and was a teammate of current Silver Hawks' pitching coach Wellington Cepeda that season, said getting the Game 1 win on the road was critical.
"We gain confidence from winning the first game," Lopez said. "We're in different divisions, and we haven't seen each other since early May. We have different players, different rosters. It's like the first game to get to know each other. You have to play attention to details real quick and make adjustments."
Pena finished a triple shy of the cycle on a 3-for-4 night.
"I was seeing the ball pretty well," he said. "On the home run, I was definitely looking all the way fastball, and I got it right where I like it. I put a good swing on it. The double that I hit, I knew (starter Chris Devenski) likes to throw the change-up. I was still looking fastball, but it was in the back of my head, that I might get a change-up. He threw the change-up and I just threw my barrel at it and it went over the head of the first baseman."
Devenski gave up two runs on six hits while striking out nine over seven innings to earn the win for the Bandits. Andrew Walter fanned two and gave up a hit over 1 1/3 innings for his third save of the playoffs.
Game 2 will be Thursday night in South Bend. After a travel day Friday, Game 3 in the best-of-5 series will take place at Quad Cities.