It was a long, emotional night for Sacramento's Danny Putnam, one that ended with his teammates jumping on top of him at home plate.
Putnam blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning Saturday as the Sacramento River Cats outlasted the Salt Lake Bees, 7-4, to force a decisive fifth game in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Conference Finals.
"I don't usually show much emotion, but I couldn't keep my hands from going up in the air," Putnam said after being mobbed by his teammates.
"This park hasn't been real friendly to me, so I was just hoping it went over [the center fielder's] head for a double. It carried pretty darn good."
The 24-year-old right fielder, who also connected for a two-run shot in the third, drilled a 3-1 fastball from reliever Greg Jones (0-1) off the batter's eye in dead center, sending 7,994 fans at Raley Field into a frenzy.
"The at-bat before, he struck me out on four pitches and overpowered me with a fastball," said Putnam. "I wanted to end it before, but it didn't work. I was trying to get a fastball over the plate and not try to do too much with it, just let it happen."
Putnam has fueled Sacramento's comeback from an 0-2 series deficit. He went 1-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs in Friday's 7-4 victory and was 2-for-4 with five RBIs in Game 4.
"This ranks right up there with my best baseball experiences," he said. "That's awesome, that's why we play this game."
It was also a memorable night for Putnam's teammate, Nick Blasi, who went 3-for-5 with two homers of his own. He followed Putnam's third-inning blast with a shot over the fence in left-center as the River Cats erased a 3-0 deficit. Blasi led off the fifth with another long ball.
"Blasi was huge for us tonight," said Putnam.
Salt Lake, which won the first two games of the series in its final at-bat, finds itself trying to stave off elimination in Game 5 on Sunday. Left-hander Bobby Cramer will take the ball for Sacramento, while righty Nick Green goes for the Bees.
While it's been an emotionally draining series for both teams, Putnam believes the River Cats have the momentum -- and home-field advantage for the biggest game of the season.
"There's been three walks-offs in four games now, so as far as being a fan goes, it doesn't get more exciting," he said. "The character to come back as team, I think there were about five minutes where everybody felt bad [after Game 2], but there was no doubt we could get to this Game 5. Being able to bounce back speaks highly of this team and its manager."
Reliever Brad Ziegler (1-1) picked up the win with 2 2/3 scoreless frames. He struck out Nick Gorneault to end the eighth and fanned Bobby Wilson to close out the ninth. River Cats starter Kaz Tadano yielded four runs -- three earned -- on five hits with nine strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings.
Mike Eylward's two-run single capped a three-run third for Salt Lake and Tommy Murphy forged a 4-4 tie with an RBI base hit in the eighth off reliever Ron Flores.
Bees starter Jonathon Rouwenhorst was reached for four runs on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 frames.
The winner of Sunday's finale will meet New Orleans in the PCL Finals.