It may not have been what he had in mind when he stepped to the plate with two on and two out in the bottom of the 18th inning Thursday, but the outcome worked for Clinton's Mario Martinez.
The Mariners infield prospect's dribbler got through the legs of Lake County's Adam Abraham, giving the Class A LumberKings an 8-7 win and ending a marathon game that lasted more than five-and-a-half hours. In doing so, Clinton tied the Midwest League best-of-5 Championship Series at one game apiece.
"I just wanted to see a good pitch on the plate, close [to] the middle, make contact and that's it," said Martinez. "When I hit the ground ball, I [knew to] just run hard. I [ran] hard, but I [looked] to third base and I saw the ball go through his legs."
The error plated Blake Ochoa, who had worked a two-out walk and moved to second base on another walk. Martinez, though, was surprised that he ended up the beneficiary of a late-game mistake.
"I felt unbelievable, because the ground ball was not too hard," he said. "I [thought] it was just a routine groundout. When I saw it [go] through his legs, I couldn't believe it. Everybody was really excited, [jumping up and down] at home plate."
Clinton starter Erasmo Ramirez took a shutout into the seventh inning, yielding two runs on six hits and striking out six without walking a batter over seven frames. Jonathan Arias allowed two hits over four scoreless innings and struck out the side in the 13th, and Nick Czyz gave up a hit and fanned three in the final two frames for the win.
Lake County scored twice in each of the final three innings to force the extra play.
The Captains' Giovanni Soto, who was scheduled to start Game 3 on Saturday but was tagged with the loss Thursday, entered the game in the bottom of the 17th and struck out the first two hitters he faced. He retired the first two batters of the 18th before issuing consecutive walks.
A 6-6 tie lasted into the 12th, when Lake County's Roberto Perez belted a one-out homer to left field off of Matthew Bischoff, who was the fifth of seven LumberKings pitchers to see action.
In the bottom of that frame, a pair of singles and a walk netted Clinton a run for Tim Morris, but Martinez was thrown out at the plate on the same play to end the inning. Little did he know then he'd have another chance to be the hero.
"I don't think we got tired," said Martinez. "[As the game wore on], we just said, 'OK, let's go. We can win the game this inning.' It was like that every time."
The LumberKings dropped the first game in both of their previous two playoff series. The team was eager to avoid two straight losses at home before going on the road for the rest of the series, starting with Saturday's Game 3.
"It was really important. Now we go to [Lake County]," Martinez said, adding that Clinton's gameplan won't change. "Just play the same ... with energy and [be] aggressive, inning by inning."