BURLINGTON, VT --- Kevin Merrell led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run and then scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a Ryan Gridley walkoff double to give the Vermont Lake Monsters a 2-1 New York-Penn League victory over the Batavia Muckdogs Tuesday night at historic Centennial Field.
Merrell led off the ninth with a four-pitch walk and advanced to second base on a passed ball by catcher David Gauntt. After fouling off a couple of 2-2 pitches from Shane Sawczak (2-1), Gridley lined a double to the rightcenter field gap to plate Merrell for Vermont's fourth walkoff win of the season (first since July 9th).
Merrell's 360-foot home run to right field in the first was his second home run of the season and just the third Vermont homer over the last 16 games. It was the Lake Monsters first leadoff homer since Luis Barrera July 16, 2016 vs. Williamsport.
After the Merrell homer, Batavia starter Sean Guenther retired the next 11 Lake Monsters in order before a Greg Deichmann two-out infield single in the fourth. The only other baserunner allowed by Guenther was a hit batter in the fifth that was erased on a double play. Vermont's only other hit, before Gridley's walkoff double, was a Mickey McDonald bunt single in the fourth.
Vermont starter Jean Ruiz allowed a walk and two singles in the second inning, including a Marcos Rivera RBI single to tie the game 1-1. Ruiz gave up just one other hit over his four innings with three strikeouts, while reliever Jhenderson Hurtado a walk and two strikeouts in two hitless innings.
Michael Danielak (2-0) took over to start the seventh and went the final three inning, allowing two hits with one walk and five strikeouts to earn the victory for Vermont (26-22), which now leads Tri-City by 2 1/2 games in the Stedler Division. Batavia fell to 16-30 overall with the loss.
The Lake Monsters and Muckdogs will play the second of the three-game series at Centennial Wednesday night at 7:05 pm. The first 1,000 fans will receive a free Lake Monsters lunch bag.
Paul Stanfield is the Media Relations Director for the Vermont Lake Monsters.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.