Nick Rickles is going to rest easy Friday night.
The Phillies prospect caught 13 innings before delivering a walk-off single as Lehigh Valley staved off elimination in the International League semifinals by topping Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 3-2, at Coca-Cola Park.
"It was excitement and also relief," Rickles said. "I had never caught 13 innings in my life -- any level. Each inning, you get a little more tired. It could have been the last game of the year. Not that you ever leave anything on the field, but the last thing you want to do at the end of the year is stop and be like, 'Wow, I didn't give it all I had.'"
Video: Rickles bloops walk-off single for IronPigs
Danny Ortiz led off the 13th with a double to right field off Brady Lail, the RailRiders' fifth pitcher. IL MVP Joey Meneses was intentionally walked and Ryan Goins moved the runners over with a sacrifice. Following a mound visit, Rickles came to the plate hitless in his first five at-bats of the night. But the 28-year-old delivered, blooping the game-winner to shallow right to score Ortiz. With the infield in and the outfielders at normal depth, Rickles knew he'd won the game as soon as he made contact.
"It's a situation where striking out is not an option because it doesn't give you a chance to score," he said. "They threw me outside most of the night. That was my approach going up. Thankfully, I put enough bat on the ball to get the ball to the outfield."
Gameday box score
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starter Ryan Bollinger retired the IronPigs in order the first time through the lineup, but Collin Cowgill drilled a two-run homer off reliever George Kontos in the sixth to tie the game at 2-2.
"We led the league in home runs," Rickles said. "Most of the games when we were down, it took a big home run to get us going. We kind of lacked that in the last month. We kind of lacked that big game-tying, game-winning homer that we were so used to having. Cowgill being able to hit that homer definitely sparked us as a team."
Rey Navarro collected four hits, drove in both RailRiders' runs and finished a triple shy of the cycle.
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The IronPigs host Game 4 on Saturday with a chance to even the best-of-5 series. Nobody wanted the season to end Friday, Rickles said, so the team will carry the same mentality to the next game.
"Going in the clubhouse, music going and everybody laughing and good food, I definitely think it's going to play a huge part in coming back tomorrow," the Stetson University product said. "Obviously, the team we're playing played 13 innings also but left with a different feeling than we are."
In other IL playoff action:
Bulls 4, Mud Hens 2
Rays No. 13 prospect Nathaniel Lowe opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first. Tigers No. 6 prospect Christin Stewart put Toledo in front with a two-run homer in the third, but Durham's Joe McCarthy lined a two-run shot of his own in the bottom of the inning to put the Bulls ahead for good. The bullpen trio of Hoby Milner, Colin Poche and Jordan Harrison faced the minimum over four innings to lock down the victory. Durham can return to the Governors' Cup Finals with a home win on Saturday. Gameday box score