South Bend, IN- The Bowling Green Hot Rods claimed a second-half Eastern Division Title in a 5-4 victory over the South Bend Cubs on Saturday in one of the strangest games of the season for the Hot Rods. Bowling Green is 81-56 overall with a 42-25 record in the second half ahead of Sunday's 1:05 PM CDT first pitch in South Bend.
With Sunday's win, the Hot Rods and Cubs begin the postseason on Wednesday, September 4 in South Bend, IN before returning to Bowling Green Ballpark on Thursday, September 5 to conclude the series with the potential of two contests to conclude the best-of-three Quarterfinal.
The Hot Rods took a 1-0 lead in the second inning off South Bend starter Kohl Franklin without a hit. Grant Witherspoon led off with a walk and scored when Seaver Whalen roped a ball down the third-base line that was ruled an error, allowing Witherspoon to score and make it a 1-0 ballgame.
Bowling Green loaded the bases in the top of the third against Franklin to extend the lead. With one out, Nick Schnell, Jonathan Aranda, and Ruben Cardenas all walked to load the bases for Witherspoon who grounded out to short. The ground out allowed Schnell to score, extending the Hot Rods lead to 2-0.
The Cubs struck in the fourth and fifth innings to chase Hot Rods starter Easton McGee from the ballgame while tying the contest, but the Hot Rods took a one-run lead in the sixth against Fauris Gurrero out of the South Bend bullpen. Seaver Whalen doubled to left with one out and scored when Betts singled to right, giving the Hot Rods a 4-3 edge.
South Bend tied the game in the seventh against Nick Padilla in his final inning of work, but Proctor came through in the ninth to put the Hot Rods on top for good. Erik Ostberg was hit by a pitch with tone out before Osmy Gregorio grounded into a fielder's choice to retire Ostberg at second base. Proctor dumped a single in front of a diving Darius Hill in left field, scoring Gregorio to give the Hot Rods a 5-4 lead. Despite getting two runners aboard in the bottom of the frame, Nathan Witt and Joel Peguero teamed up to get the final three outs of the ballgame to secure a second-half Eastern Division Title for the Hot Rods.
The victory sets up a first-round matchup between the Cubs and Hot Rods with the first game set to take place at Four Winds Field in South Bend, Indiana on Wednesday, September 4 before the series shifts to Bowling Green Ballpark on Thursday, September 5 and 6 where games two and (if necessary) three will take place.
McGee allowed three runs on 10 hits with three strikeouts in a no-decision. Padilla held South Bend to one run on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts over his 2.1 innings of work. Witt (2-5) earned the win, allowing a hit and a walk with one strikeout. Peguero locked down his 16th save of the season after facing just one batter to get the final out of the game.
Notes: Betts' homer was the first hit of the game for BG… It ties him with Moises Gomez (2018) for the third-most in a single season in franchise history… It was also Betts' 72nd RBI of the year, tying him for fifth-most in a single season with Jake Hager (2012)… The Cubs' run in the bottom of the fourth broke up a 20.2 inning scoreless streak… McGee's 10 hits allowed are the most by a Hot Rods starter in any outing this season… It also ties his career-high… The Hot Rods were out hit by 11 in Saturday's win… BG is 27-22 in one-run games… They finish the season 59-47 in night games… The team is 24-19 in games that open a series… BG is also 56-22 when scoring first… Saturday was just the 18th win of the season when the team is out hit by their opponents… They finish the month of August 19-10… It's the team's highest win-total and is tied for their lowest loss-total… The Hot Rods and Cubs square off in the second game of the series on Saturday with a 1:05 PM CDT first pitch… The Hot Rods will send RHP Shane Baz (3-2, 2.87) to the mound against a Cubs starter yet to be named… Fans can catch all the action with Shawn Murnin on Willie 107.9 FM and the Hot Rods Radio Network on the TuneIn Radio and MiLB First Pitch apps, available for smartphones.
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