GREENVILLE, S.C. (Sep. 14, 2017) - Facing elimination, the Intimidators rallied for three runs in the fifth inning and held on late to defeat the Greenville Drive, 5-4, in Game 3 of the South Atlantic League Championship Series on Thursday night at Fluor Field at the West End. With the win, Kannapolis forced Game 4 of the the best-of-five series which Greenville leads, 2-games-to-1.
The Intimidators built a 5-2 lead before the Drive threatened in the seventh inning. Blake Hickman (2-0), who earned the win in his second start of the postseason, walked two batters to open the inning, and Jagger Rusconi dropped a bunt-single to load the bases. Following an RBI-ground out by Santiago Espinal, Kannapolis turned to left-handed reliever Kevin Escorcia to face upcoming left-handed hitting Brett Netzer. Escorcia plunked Netzer to load the bases but induced a pop-fly for the second out.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, pinch-hitter Pedro Castellanos - batting in place of left-handed hitting Jerry Downs - rolled a ball to first base where Gavin Sheets misplayed the grounder, pulling the Drive within a run, 5-4. Escorica bounced back, retiring Bobby Dalbec to leave the bases loaded. Matt Foster relived Escorcia with one out in the eighth and worked around a pair of hits for a 5-out save (1).
Hickman worked 6 and 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Starter Bryan Mata (0-1) took the loss for the Drive in his second outing of the postseason, allowing four runs on seven hits over 4 and 1/3 innings.
In the top of the third, Zach Remillard singled up the middle with one out, and with Alex Call at the plate, stole second base. Remillard steal induced a wild throw from catcher Roldani Baldwin, allowing him to move to third on the error. Call followed with an RBI-groundout for a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, Greenville took advantage of a missed opportunity by Kannapolis. With two outs, Bobby Dalbec lined a ball up the middle, and shortstop Mitch Roman just missed an inning-ending catch with the ball hitting the heel of his glove. One batter later, Ryan Scott blasted a 416-ft home run to right-center field for a 2-1 Drive lead.
Kannapolis wasted little time reclaiming the lead. In the top of the fifth, Remillard again started the rally with a one-out single. Call followed with a triple off the wall in center field, scoring Remillard to tie the game, 2-2. Blake Rutherford grounded a ball to first base, but Call - charging home from third base - slid under the tag of catcher Roldani Baldwin to put Kannapolis back in front, 3-2. One batter later, Major League rehabber Willy Garcia lined a ball to the gap in right-center field, allowing Rutherford to advance to third base. Garcia put himself in a pickle between first- and second-base, allowing Rutherford to score from third while Garcia snuck around the defense to safely reach second, putting Kannapolis ahead 4-2.
Evan Skoug added a sacrifice-fly in the fifth, scoring Luis Gonzalez, for a 5-2 lead.
With the win, Kannapolis will play Game 4 of the SAL Championship Series on Friday at 7:05 p.m. in Greenville as RHP John Parke makes his Class A debut for the Intimidators while the Drive counter with Hildemaro Requena. The Intimidators are in their first postseason since 2009 and first SAL Championship Series since 2005. Kannapolis won its only SAL Championship in 2005. The Drive are looking for their first championship in franchise history.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.