De Los Santos' walk-off stuns Sox

First homer in four years gives Hillcats 2-0 series lead

(Lynchburg Hillcats)

By Danny Wild / | September 15, 2009 7:22 PM ET

Jose De Los Santos got a little help from the dugout on the biggest hit of his career Tuesday night.

"When he hit it, I started blowing, trying to give it as much help as I could," Lynchburg manager P.J. Forbes said. "You know you see it so often, you talk about it -- come playoff time, you see things you've never seen before."

With Forbes and the Hillcats breathing heavy in the ninth inning, De Los Santos, who hadn't even reached the warning track on the fly this season, slugged a walk-off homer to give Lynchburg a 5-4 win over Salem and a 2-0 lead in the Mills Cup Finals.

It was the second baseman's first homer in more than four years.

"I can't imagine anything being more out of the blue," Forbes said of the game-winning shot. "We preached to him so much to hit line drives and ground balls. Speed is so much a part of his game, anytime he hits a fly ball, we're on him about it."

De Los Santos, a 160-pound infielder in the No. 9 spot in the lineup, stole 53 bases with the Hillcats. He had only nine extra-base hits all year, so when he rounded third base Tuesday, he had quite a shocked fan base waiting at the plate.

"It was the right pitch at the right swing, it's just one of those things you dream about as a kid," said Forbes. "We had a couple of big hits late last night and I'm not sure there's an explanation for tonight."

De Los Santos' two-out shot off the scoreboard in left field off reliever Kyle Fernandes was his first homer since 2005. The Hillcats, who needed five games to get past Wilmington in the semifinals, have a chance to sweep the Red Sox for the Mills Cup in Game 3 on Thursday.

"It couldn't have happened to a nicer kid," Forbes said of the 24-year-old De Los Santos. "He does everything you ask. I'm as excited for him as anything, it just tops it all off."

After falling behind by a run in the third, Lynchburg took a 3-1 lead in the fifth when Kris Watts scored on a throwing error and Chase d'Arnaud lined his second two-run double in as many games.

Salem answered in the seventh on Chih-Hsien Chiang's go-ahead three-run blast, but d'Arnaud trotted home on Jamie Romak's bases-loaded walk to tie the game an inning later.

That set the stage for De Los Santos, whose last long ball came with the Pirates' Dominican Summer League affiliate.

"You don't expect it," said Forbes. "You're hoping, 3-1 count, he gets a base hit or walks. I know it was the farthest thing from my mind. I knew it had a chance, but I didn't know if it had enough."

Ronald Uviedo picked up the win after striking out one in the ninth. Starter Rudy Owens, the South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding Pitcher this season, held the Red Sox to a pair of runs on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked two.

Forbes said he hopes Wednesday's day off won't affect the Hillcats' momentum.

"I hate to see a day off tomorrow -- Salem came in on such a roll, they swept Winston-Salem and then two days off kind of took a little wind out of their sails," he said. "My message to the guys was, 'Enjoy your day off, but you haven't accomplished anything yet.' We need the same focus, passion and energy that we've had the first five against Wilmington and the first two against Salem."

Red Sox starter Stephen Fife, Boston's third-round pick in 2008, was charged with three unearned runs on three hits and a walk over six frames.

Danny Wild is an editor for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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