How did Kinston's Casey Frawley end the longest game in the 66-year history of the Carolina League on Sunday?
By shortening up, of course.
The Indians sealed their 3-2, 23-inning victory over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans when Frawley -- choking up on his waning bat -- delivered a two-out single to score Roberto Perez from third base.
"To be honest, I was just trying to get on top of something and get a ground ball," Frawley said. "When you play that many innings, you're going to feel tired and your swing can drag. ... My arms were gone; I tried using my hands."
Frawley's 10 fingers ended a game than spanned nearly seven hours, saw the sun replaced by artificial lighting and an announced crowd of 1,179 whittled to a smattering of about 50 at Historic Grainger Stadium.
History alo was made: No Carolina League game -- none of the past 36,601 -- had ever exceeded 21 innings. On July 5, 1998, Wilmington topped Danville, 3-2, in a game that featured 15 pitchers and 27 position players. Sunday's record-breaking affair comprised 15 and 28, respectively.
When Frawley stepped to the plate for his final at-bat, he was 1-for-10 with six strikeouts -- he'd singled in the first inning, not long after the game began at 1:30 p.m. ET -- before coming through against Kasey Kiker (1-2), the Pelicans' seventh pitcher. The Indians had only two hits in 24 chances with runners in scoring position, while Myrtle Beach was 1-for-13 in the same situations.
Frawley is no stranger to coming through in the clutch. Cleveland's 17th-round Draft pick in 2009 out of Stetson University recalled a walk-off homer last June 20 to clinch Class A Lake County's first-half division title.
Kinston had an even better opportunity to score the winning run an inning earlier: Delvi Cid, who batted for Bo Greenwell in the opening inning, singled, stole second and advanced to third on an error. Cid was joined on the basepaths by two teammates with none out, but Tyler Cannon (0-for-8) struck out and Doug Pickens (0-for-9) grounded into an inning-ending double play.
"They just turned a great double play," said Frawley, a fellow middle infielder. "I definitely thought that we were going to win in that inning."
Hours earlier, Kinston appeared well on its way to a timely victory, taking a 2-1 lead into the ninth. But Indians All-Star closer Preston Guilmet suffered his first blown save in 15 opportunities this season when he allowed Mitch Hilligoss' game-tying RBI single.
The Pelicans almost grabbed the lead on the same play as Santiago Chirino tried to score from second base on Hilligoss' clutch hit but was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Tyler Holt.
"That was huge," Frawley said. "We have all the confidence in the world in Preston -- he is an All-Star closer -- but they ended up knocking him around a little bit."
After Guilmet's exit, five Kinston relievers combined on 14 scoreless innings, concluding with three strong frames from lefty Chris Jones (2-0).
"They went out there and did an unbelievable job," Frawley said. "That kept us loose; we weren't staying tired with out heels on the ground."
Before Kiker's significant matchup with Frawley, five Pelicans also combined on 14 shutout frames. The last of the five, left-hander Chad Bells, completed five one-hit innings before he was lifted at the start of the 23rd.
The game also began as a pitching duel. Kinston's Brett Brach and Myrtle Beach's Joe Wieland both allowed a single run through six innings, with Wieland striking out nine.
Sunday was a normal day for the starters, who had plenty of time to ice their throwing shoulders. The position players had no such luxury. Among the most exhausted was Perez, who fell a triple shy of the cycle and played 23 innings behind the plate for the K-Tribe. He went 4-for-9 with his first homer of the season and scored all three runs.
"We've got a few guys with sore knees," Frawley said, "but we have a doubleheader tomorrow and we're looking to win two."