Just as he did in the opening round of the Eastern League playoffs, Eric Hacker got the Trenton Thunder started off on the right foot in the Finals.
The 25-year-old right-hander picked up his second win of the postseason, allowing just one run over six solid innings Tuesday as the visiting Trenton Thunder edged the Akron Aeros, 3-1, in Game 1 of their best-of-5 Eastern League Championship Series.
Hacker (2-0) allowed just three hits and walked two, retiring the final eight batters he faced after a leadoff single in the fourth inning. Michael Dunn recorded four outs, striking out three and walking two, and Jhonny Nunez got the final five outs for his second save of the playoffs.
Hacker started the first game of Trenton's first-round playoff series against Portland, allowing one run over 5 2/3 innings.
"I felt like I was having to battle early on, but I made some adjustments," Hacker said. "It was my first time pitching in this park. I can't say enough about the team, we played great defense and this was a big win."
Chris Malec gave the Thunder the early lead with an RBI single in the first and snapped a 1-1 tie with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Francisco Cervelli singled in a run and Ramiro Pena went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored as Trenton won its fourth straight game of the playoffs.
After compiling a 1.87 ERA in nine starts with Class A Advanced Tampa, Hacker made 17 starts with Trenton, going 7-4 with a 2.76 ERA. None of those starts were as big as this one, though.
"That's why we play the game, to be able to pitch in these spots," he said. "I love to compete with the game on the line, especially in this series. It's great to know the coaches have the confidence to put me out there and to throw well like I did tonight was exciting.
"It's crucial to get the first game, especially on the road," Hacker added. "We got some momentum under our belts with this one, and we're excited to try to finish the series at home."
Aeros starter Kevin Dixon (0-1) yielded three runs on five hits and four walks while striking out four over 5 2/3 innings.
Stephen Head went 3-for-4 and Joshua Rodriguez hit an RBI double in the third for Akron.