The ValleyCats and Connecticut Tigers traveled four hours to Cooperstown this morning to play on historic Doubleday Field after Friday's game in Norwich was postponed. The two sides nearly made up for last night's rainout, thrilling 2,210 fans with four extra innings at the birthplace of baseball.
The 13 innings were the most the 'Cats have played this season, but the result was all too familiar: a 6-5 defeat. Ryan Soares's fourth hit of the game brought home pinch runner Les Smith with the game-winning run as the Tigers improved to 18-16. Tri-City (13-21) has been involved in seven extra-inning contests this season, most in the NY-Penn League, but is only 1-6 in those games.
Early in the match, it seemed unlikely that more than nine frames would be needed. Connecticut jumped all over David Martinez early on, scoring a run on two hits in each of the first three innings. Josh Ashenbrenner's two-out triple down the right-field line - a difficult feat on the small Doubleday Field - set up the first run, and Julio Rodriguez hit a leadoff double and scored in the second. Alex Nunez drove in Ashenbrenner in the first frame and Ryan Enos in the third.
The 'Cats managed only one hit off Patrick Cooper in the first three innings, but heated up in the fourth. Kiké Hernandez and Tyler Burnett reached base to lead off the inning, and Ben Heath drove home the former with a double down the left-field line. Mike Kvasnicka and Adam Bailey brought home Burnett and Heath with productive outs, knotting the game at three apiece.
Meanwhile, Martinez settled down. The righty retired the final eight batters he faced, retiring the side in order in the fourth and fifth innings. Martinez did not walk a single Tiger, and has issued only four free passes in 26.2 innings this season.
Andrew Robinson took over for Martinez, setting the side down in order in the sixth inning. But the righty fell prey to some hard luck in the seventh. With two outs, Robinson got Soares to hit a chopper to shortstop Ben Orloff, but the second hop hung in the air long enough for Soares to beat the throw. Leadoff hitter PJ Polk followed shallow fly ball to right field that fell in for a base hit; Soares took third on the play and Polk stole second. Finally, left fielder Ryan Enos hit a soft grounder back up the middle that got through the infield, allowing Soares and Polk to score and give the Tigers a 5-4 lead.
Those were the only three hits Robinson allowed in his three innings of work, along with two strikeouts and no free passes. Like Martinez, Robinson has shown excellent control this season, walking only two batters in 21.2 relief innings.
Connecticut reliever Logan Hoch set the 'Cats down in order in the eighth inning, but Tri-City mounted a rally in its last at-bats. Center fielder Dan Adamson led off the ninth with a shot down the left-field line that went for two bases. The next batter, pinch hitter Buck Afenir, drove a line drive to right-center that fell just beyond a diving Polk's glove. Adamson came home with the game-tying run.
Polk had made a spectacular play two innings earlier, leaping against the fence in right-center-field to rob Wilton Infante of an extra-base hit.
Each team put a rally together in the tenth inning. After a one-out walk by Heath, Kvasnicka drilled an opposite-field double, putting runners on second and third with only one out. But Tyler White battled through a nine-pitch at-bat to fan Bailey, and sent Adamson down swinging to escape the jam. In the bottom half of the frame, Travis Blankenship allowed a leadoff single to Soares, walked Enos and hit Nunez to load the bases with two outs. But Eric Roof hit a harmless grounder to Orloff to extend the game.
The Tigers put another runner in scoring position in the eleventh inning when Matt Perry drew a walk and stole second. But Perry never advanced further, as Brandt Walker fanned Soares to get out of the inning.
The two sides traded blows again in the 12th frame. Burnett pulled a double down the right-field line and Heath walked with one out, but Miguel Mejia retired Kvasnicka and Bailey to escape the jam. The Tigers seemed sure to win the game in the bottom half, as Polk led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on an Enos groundout. But Walker got a huge strikeout with a fastball to Nunez. Roof pulled a hard liner that found the glove of a leaping Burnett, and the game continued.
The 'Cats finally ran out of lives in the 13th inning. Catcher Julio Rodriguez led off the inning with a single off Adam Champion, and pinch-runner Les Smith advanced to second on a Matt Perry sacrifice. Champion fanned Chris Sedon, bringing up Soares for his sixth at-bat of the day. Closer Jorge De Leon was called upon to face the shortstop, but Soares sent the first pitch back up the middle for his fourth hit. Dan Adamson's throw home was on target but a moment too late to catch the sliding Smith, who came home with the game-winning run.
Tri-City faces a difficult turnaround after the marathon contest, traveling four and a half hours tonight to face Vermont (23-11) in an afternoon contest on Sunday.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.