PORTLAND, Maine -- The Akron Aeros mounted rallies in each of the first two games of the Eastern League Championship Series, just not in the ninth inning, when they needed it most.
That changed Friday in front of a hostile crowd at Hadlock Field.
Facing a sweep in the best-of-5 series, the Aeros got an RBI double from Brian Barton and a sacrifice fly from Pat Osborn in the ninth and defeated the Portland Sea Dogs, 6-4.
Tony Sipp came in to close it out, but the usually laid-back left-hander issued back-to-back walks with one out. After surviving a deep shot to center field by Luis Jimenez, Sipp struck out Chris Durbin to secure the win.
"I guess I had too much adrenaline going," Sipp said. "I felt better than I normally do warming up in the bullpen, but I got away from my game plan. I was trying to blow it by guys instead of just hitting my spots."
Jimenez was so sure he'd won the game and handed the Sea Dogs the first title in their 13-year history that he trotted to first base with his hands in the air and index fingers pointing toward the sky. Even a handful of his teammates spilled out of the dugout, preparing to celebrate.
"At that point, (Trevor Crowe) either catches it or we go home," Aeros manager Tim Bogar said.
But Crowe raced to the wall, turned and made a leaping catch, giving Sipp and the Aeros new life.
"I knew it had a chance, but I didn't think it was going out," Sipp said. "The next time they celebrate like that, they might want to make sure it's out and not just a fence-scraper."
Brandon Moss put Portland on the board in the first with a solo homer. With two outs, the 22-year-old right fielder jumped on starter Sean Smith's first pitch, a 90-mph fastball. The blast was his third of the playoffs and made him Portland's postseason home run leader with five over the last two seasons.
Akron responded in the second, when Brad Snyder led off with a single to right field and scored on Ivan Ochoa's two-out base hit through the left side. Ochoa was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
The Aeros went ahead in the third on back-to-back RBI singles by Barton and Snyder, then increased their lead to 4-1 on Ryan Goleski's leadoff homer in the fifth.
But Portland answered with two unearned runs in the bottom of the inning. With one run in and three left-handed batters coming up, Bogar replaced the right-handed Smith with 24-year-old left-hander Reid Santos.
Santos, who joined Akron from Class A Advanced Kinston on Aug. 14, struck out George Kottaras, allowed an RBI single to Moss and walked Jimenez. But he fanned Durbin to escape the bases-loaded jam.
Looking to extend the lead in the sixth, Akron managed to load the bases with two outs against left-handed reliever Rusty Tucker. Barton battled from an 0-2 hole to force a full count in a 10-pitch at-bat, but Tucker got him to chase a low pitch.
Santos provided 1 2/3 scoreless innings before giving way to right-hander Travis Foley to start the seventh. But Foley pitched to just four batters before being taken out with a nagging biceps injury.
"It's something that's been bothering him for awhile," Bogar said. "We've been trying to be careful how we use him so he doesn't overdo it."
With two outs and Jimenez on first with a walk, Foley plunked Chris Durbin on the left arm. As Durbin slowly took his base, Akron trainer Jeff Desjardins jogged out to check on Foley, not Durbin.
After a huddle with Bogar and the umpires, Foley gave way to closer Jim Ed Warden, who promptly gave up Brian Myrow's RBI double into the right-field corner that tied the game.
But with Durbin heading home with the go-ahead run, Snyder threw a laser to cutoff man and second baseman Brandon Pinckney, who gunned down Durbin at the plate to end the inning.
"I thought I got around it," Durbin said. "(But) we didn't get the call, they did. The throw beat me there, but I was around the tag."
Portland threatened again in the eighth, but David Bacani was thrown out trying to steal second.
"We had some bounces go our way in Akron," Portland manager Todd Claus said. "Tonight we had a couple things go against us."
Portland hosts Game 4 at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday. Aeros' right-hander Jensen Lewis (1-2, 3.89 ERA) will face Sea Dogs' left-hander Frank Brooks (2-6, 3.86 ERA).