MANCHESTER, N.H. - Jon Berti picked a good time to hit his first Double-A home run. In the bottom of the 12th inning, the Fisher Cats' second baseman snuck one inside the foul pole in left to send New Hampshire (9-10) home with an 11-10 victory over the Reading Fightin Phils (11-7). The win is the team's third in a row and moves them within one game of .500 entering the middle game with Reading on Saturday night.
A back and forth affair began with the Phils striking for the first three runs of the game against starting pitcher Shawn Hill, who was making his season debut. An Aaron Altherr home run put the Phils on the board in the second, and then they added two more in the third for a 3-0 lead.
The Fisher Cats took advantage of some sloppy fielding to put up a five-spot in the fourth inning. Ryan Schimpf started the scoring with an RBI double. After a pair of errors produced two more runs, Gabe Jacobo laced a two-run single to cap the inning for a 5-3 New Hampshire advantage.
Reading pulled a run closer in the fifth before the Fisher Cats extended the lead further. Ahead 5-4, they put out four more runs in the bottom of the fifth. A.J. Jimenez and Andy Burns each drove home a run early in the inning. Later in the frame, with two outs, Brian Van Kirk drove home two more to push the lead to 9-4.
Things looked good from there for the Fisher Cats, until Reading struck in the eighth. Facing Tyler Ybarra, the Phils loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a single. John Anderson relieved Ybarra with one out, yielding a run-scoring single and a sacrifice fly to leave the Phils trailing 9-6. Before Anderson could get out of the frame, Reading tied it on a two-out, three-run homer to left field by Tommy Joseph to knot it at 9-9.
The game went to extras, and both teams struck in the tenth. Reading manufactured a run against Anderson with a walk, sacrifice bunt, and a single from Anthony Hewitt. In the bottom of the frame, facing Kenny Giles, Ryan Schimpf's broken-bat single to right plated Jonathan Jones to tie the game again at 10-10.
It stayed that way until the 12th when the Phils nearly took the lead in the top of the inning. Wil allowed a lead-off double to Cesar Hernandez, but he buckled down to strand the base runner at third. That set up Berti and the Fisher Cats in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Berti took the first pitch he saw and kept it just fair down the line in left to send the Fisher Cats home for the win.
Berti finished the night with three hits, scored three runs, and had two more stolen bases. Schimpf was on base five times with a three hits and two walks. He also scored two runs and finished the game with two runs batted in.
The teams continue the series on Saturday afternoon at 5:05 p.m. Saturday's game will be followed by another explosive Atlas Fireworks show. It's also a Reading Challenge Day presented by Velcro USA Inc. Fans can also win free prizes by playing USA Subs Baseball Bingo. Tickets are available at the team box office, by calling (603) 641-2005, and by visiting www.nhfishercats.com.