FISHKILL, NY - Trailing by one in the last of the ninth, the Hudson Valley Renegades collected four consecutive singles to come back and defeat the Vermont Lake Monsters 4-3 in a walk-off Saturday night at Dutchess Stadium. With the win, Hudson Valley clinches homefield advantage for the best-of-three semifinal round of the New York-Penn League playoffs, which begins next week. An opponent has not been determined, however the Renegades will play on the road for game one, then return to Dutchess Stadium for game two and, if necessary, game three next Thursday and Friday.
For the third consecutive game, the Lake Monsters drew first blood with a run in the first. With one out, shortstop Eli White walked then went to second on a single by centerfielder Tyler Ramirez. Both runners moved up on a double steal before White came in on a sac fly to left by designated hitter Miguel Mercedes to make it a 1-0 ballgame.
After a groundball double-play ruined a bases loaded one out situation for Hudson Valley in the bottom of the first, the Lake Monsters would extend their lead in the second as Renegades starter Spencer Moran struggled with his control. Catcher Sean Murphy started the inning with a single to center. With one out, Moran issued back-to-back walks to load the bases. After getting a strikeout for out number two, Moran allowed his third walk of the inning to White to force in Murphy and give Vermont a 2-0 lead.
Hudson Valley got back in the game thanks to one swing of rightfielder Angel Perez's bat. Designated hitter Jose Rojas started the inning with a bloop single to center. After an out, Perez stepped to the plate and smoked a two-run homer over the left-centerfield wall to tie the game at two. For Perez it was his first homer of the season.
However, the Renegades couldn't garner the big hit to take the lead. After Perez's homer, the Renegades loaded the bases with two out before third baseman Jim Haley struck out to end the threat.
But the Renegades shot themselves in the foot as they gave the lead back to the Lake Monsters in the sixth. A bloop single to right by leftfielder Robert Bennie, a seeing-eye single to center from first baseman Luke Persico, and a fielding error on a sac bunt by Renegades reliever Porter Clayton loaded the bases with no one out. After Clayton got a strikeout, he got White to ground into what appeared to be a routine double-play ball to short. However, Renegades shortstop Bill Pujols bobbled the ball and could only get one out at second. Bennie scored from third on the play to give Vermont a 3-2 lead.
Things stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth. Vermont reliever Matt Milburn went for a four-inning save after shutting out the Renegades in innings 6-8. However, four consecutive singles gave Hudson Valley the win.
Perez started the frame with a single to center. He moved to second when Pujols pulled back on a bunt attempt and blooped another single to right. Centerfielder Jake Fraley then stepped in. After trying to bunt on a couple of pitches, Fraley pulled back and singled to right-center to score Perez from second and move Pujols from first to third as the winning run. With runners at the corners and no one out, Fraley took off for second with leftfielder Garrett Whitley at the plate. Lake Monsters second baseman Nate Mondou went to cover the bag on the play, which opened the right side of the infield for Whitley. The batter chopped the ball through the hole at second, allowing Pujols to score from third and hand the Renegades the dramatic win. It was their third walk-off win of the season.
Hudson Valley wound up with 13 hits for the game including a 3-4 night from Pujols who doubled and scored a run. Perez went 2-4 with a two-run homer and two runs scored. Rojas finished with two singles and a run scored, while Fraley also went 2-4 with an RBI. Vermont had seven hits with no one registering more than one. The only extra-base hit was a double by third baseman JaVon Shelby in the fifth.
Getting the win for Hudson Valley was Spencer Jones (3-0) as the reliever pitched three scoreless innings and allowed only one hit while striking out three. He followed a solid outing by Clayton who allowed an unearned run on three hits in three frames as well.
The loss went to Milburn of the Lake Monsters as the right-hander allowed the two runs in the ninth. He went three-plus innings and gave up the two runs on seven hits while striking out five. All five of his strikeouts came over the three scoreless innings in the sixth, seventh and eighth.
The Renegades finish their regular season with a two-game series against the Aberdeen Ironbirds beginning Sunday in Maryland. First-pitch for Sunday's game will be at 7:05. Righty Noel Rodriguez (4-2, 2.44 ERA) will go for the Renegades against a to-be-determined pitcher for the Ironbirds. The Hudson Valley Renegades are headed for the playoffs and will play at the Dutch in game two of their semifinal series on Thursday against a to-be-determined opponent. First-pitch scheduled for 6:35. For tickets, call 845-838-0094 or go to hvrenegades.com.