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Avs work OT to clinch playoff berth

Hart collects five hits, including RBI double in 14th inning
August 29, 2007
It took 14 innings and just under four hours, but the Salem Avalanche finally punched their ticket to the Carolina League playoffs.

Billy Hart went 5-for-7 with an RBI double in the 14th inning as Salem locked up a postseason berth Wednesday with a 7-3 victory over the first-place Wilmington Blue Rocks.

With both teams fighting for playoff berths, the Avalanche (35-30) rallied in the top of the ninth and again in the 14th. It's the first time they have reached the postseason in consecutive years since 1987-88.

Wladimir Sutil delivered a tie-breaking RBI single with one out in the 14th. Hart, who'd never had more than three hits in a game, doubled, then raced home with Sutil on second baseman Josh Johnson's two-out throwing error.

Trailing, 2-0, in the ninth inning, the Avalanche grabbed the lead as Tim Torres smacked a two-run double off Russ Haltiwanger and scored on Ryan Reed's grounder.

Wilmington (42-22), which needed a win to clinch the Northern Division second-half title, responded in the bottom half as Brian McFall singled home Brett Bigler to force extra innings.

Jeremy Cleveland hit his second homer in the fifth for the Blue Rocks after Mario Lisson lined an RBI single in the first.

Salem could have secured a playoff berth had Myrtle Beach lost to Frederick. But the Pelicans outlasted the Keys in 12 innings, 6-5. Wilmington could have locked up a spot in the postseason had second-place Potomac lost to Lynchburg, but the Nationals shut down the Hillcats, 5-1.

Christopher Blazek (4-2), the sixth pitcher used by the Avalanche, struck out four and allowed one hit over two scoreless innings for the win. The Salem bullpen allowed one run over eight innings after starter Casey Hudspeth struck out seven, walked one and limited the Blue Rocks to twor of runs on three hits over six frames.

Tyler Chambliss (5-3) took the loss after surrendering four runs -- two earned -- on four hits and a walk in the 14th. The Blue Rocks' sixth hurler struck out three.

Starter Blake Wood was dominant for six innings in his Wilmington debut. The 22-year-old right-hander yielded three hits and a walk while striking out eight and running his scoreless streak to 23 2/3 frames. He was named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week after pitching eight hitless innings on Aug. 19.

Salem, which improved to 5-7 in extra innings, will face the Kinston Indians in the first round of the playoffs.

Danny Wild is a contributor to