After being down to their last strike on three occasions, Kevin Ahrens hit a walk-off single with two outs in the ninth to cap off an incredible rally that saw the Hillcats score nine unanswered runs to overcome an 11-3 fourth-inning deficit and take the rubber match against Salem, 12-11 at Calvin Falwell Field Sunday afternoon.
Prevailing in an offensive shootout, Lynchburg (32-31) set season highs with 12 runs and 20 hits. Kevin Ahrens set a career high with five hits, while Kyle Wren had a career-best four RBIs. Wren also went 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, which is the longest active streak in the Carolina League. David Nick added a season-high four hits and also scored the winning run.
After scoring six runs on eight hits in the fourth through sixth frames, Lynchburg (32-31) stayed within two, 11-9, until the ninth. After a line-drive snag by Ryan Dent took a leadoff hit away from Edison Sanchez, Eric Garcia drove a pinch-hit double down the right field line. A groundout by Jose Peraza brought the Hillcats to their final out with the tying run still not on base.
After seeing the count move to 3-2, Kyle Wren smacked a single into right-center field to make it a one-run game, 11-10. With David Nick facing an 0-2 count, Wren stole his 28th base of the season to move into scoring position. Nick hit a single to right, and Wren raced around third to tie the game, 11-11.
With Ahrens at the plate, Nick swiped second on his second steal of the year. After working a 2-2 count, Ahrens hit a ball to right field, and Nick edged the throw to the plate from Aneury Tavarez to give the Hillcats their seventh walk-off victory of the year and their 10th win in the team's final at-bat.
Ahrens finished the game with a career-high five hits, going 5-for-6 with his only out being a diving backhanded grab by the shortstop Dent on a line drive. He moved into a tie for the team lead with Daniel Castro with his 29th RBI of the year.
Prior to Sunday, Lynchburg's biggest come-from-behind victory had been a four-run deficit, which they overcame on three consecutive nights from May 26-28. The Hillcats faced double that amount against the Red Sox after the visitors plated seven runs on six hits in the first inning and four more in the fourth to take an 11-3 advantage.
In the opening stanza, Salem had seven straight batters reach and score, highlighted by a three-run double by Tim Roberson. All of the offense came against Lay Batista, who only lasted the one inning after throwing 35 pitches to escape the frame.
In Lynchburg's first trip to the plate, Nick hit a two-out single, Ahrens reached on an infield single, and Levi Hyams was hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Daniel Carroll negotiated a full-count walk to give the Hillcats their first run.
Back-to-back one-out singles by Anthony Nunez and Jose Peraza in the second inning led to two more runs. Both players came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Wren and an RBI triple by Nick, respectively.
Salem briefly halted the comeback effort when the Red Sox scored four runs in the top of the fourth to take an 11-3 lead. Mario Martinez capped off the second round of scoring for Salem with a three-run homer to left field.
Unfazed, the Hillcats responded with three runs in the bottom half of the frame thanks to a two-run double by Wren and an RBI single by Ahrens. Lynchburg added another run in the fifth when Castro scored on an RBI fielder's choice by Peraza.
Trailing 11-7 entering the sixth inning, Nick hit a leadoff single and scored later on a groundball double play. Carroll hit a two-out double to right field and came home on an RBI base hit by Castro to make the score 11-9, which is where it stood until the ninth.
Nate Hyatt (3-2) tossed three scoreless innings to earn the victory. Kyle Kraus (2-3) went 3.0 innings, but could not register the final out and took the loss after surrendering the three-run ninth. It marked Kraus' first blown save of 2014.
Entering the final week of the first half of the season, the Hillcats are two-and-a-half games behind the Potomac Nationals in the Northern Division. Lynchburg will hit the road Monday to play at the Southern Division first-half champion Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Greg Ross (4-2, 3.36) will take the mound in the 7:05pm contest. He will be opposed by Jason Knapp (1-1, 2.00). Fans can listen to Erik Wilson call the action beginning at 6:40pm on 97.9 The Planet.