LOUISVILLE, Ky - The Louisville Bats held onto their IL West division lead in walk-off fashion Friday night with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Clippers. Solid pitching performances and timely hitting proved to be the factor in tonight's barnburner as Wilkin Castillo's bottom of the ninth single brought home the game-winning run.
In arguably the most important game of the season, Bats' starting pitcher Ben Jukich came through with a solid start to give his squad a chance to retain the IL west division lead. Through his first five innings, Jukich shut out the Clippers, allowing only three hits. It was not until the sixth inning, when the Clippers were able to crack Jukich with two more hits, to get on the board. However, it would be the only run allowed by the Bats' pitching staff on the night.
Louisville broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth, to take a 1-0 lead. With one out in the frame, Wilkin Castillo reached first on a single to center. After a strikeout, Dave Sappelt moved Castillo to second and in scoring position with two outs on a single of his own to left. Zack Cozart followed with another single to center field, bringing home Castillo, putting the Bats in front.
Columbus bounced back in the top of the sixth, evening the score at one. With one out, Jose Constanza continued his tear through the Bats pitching staff, ripping his tenth double of the season to left field. Ezequiel Carrera followed with a walk, leaving two on for Drew Sutton. The former Bat came through, singling a line drive to left field, bringing Constanza home.
In the eighth, Jordan Smith made his first appearance of the season for Louisville, taking over on the mound for Jukich. After two quick outs to start the eighth, Carrera ripped a loop shot to right-center. Bats' centerfielder Dave Sappelt made an attempt at the hit, laying out for the catch, but could not hold on allowing Carrera to take second. The go ahead run quickly became a lot more dangerous as Carrera moved ninety feet away from the lead on a balk.
Sutton stepped up to the plate, once again with runners in scoring position, and put fans at Louisville Slugger Field on the edge of their seats. Smoking a long fly ball to deep left, it looked as though the Bats would have to claw their way back if they wanted a win. Left fielder Todd Frazier had other thoughts, robbing Sutton as he slammed into the wall making the catch to end the inning.
Still deadlocked at one going into the ninth, Louisville sent Aroldis Chapman to the mound in hopes of taking the tied ballgame into the home half of the frame. Reaching a high of 105 MPH on the radar gun, Chapman (9-6, 3.57) sat down all three batters striking out the side. He would end up being credited with his ninth win of the season.
After a lead off walk in the bottom of the ninth, Danny Dorn found himself on first as the winning run. Devin Mesoraco moved Dorn to third with a single to left field, leaving the door wide open for Wilkin Castillo. Before anyone could even blink, Castillo smoked the first pitch he saw from Clippers' reliever Saul Rivera over the short and into left field, bringing Dorn home for the win. Rivera (2-1, 1.00) received his first loss of the season.
The Louisville Bats will welcome the Toledo MudHens to town for a three game set starting tomorrow night at 6:05 p.m. RHP Chad Reineke (9-7, 3.47) will be on the mound for the Bats facing off against LHP Charlie Furbush (2-3, 5.63) for the Hens.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.