On the brink of elimination and facing Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Alan Horne, the Akron Aeros came up with an ace of their own Friday night.
Jeremy Sowers tossed six scoreless innings and Rodney Choy Foo drove in three runs as the Aeros stayed alive with an 8-2 victory over the Trenton Thunder in Game 3 of the Eastern League Finals.
Sowers, who began the season with the Cleveland Indians, scattered four hits and two walks with four strikeouts en route to his second straight playoff victory. The 24-year-old left-hander pitched Akron to a 6-3 win over Erie in the opening round on Sept. 7. He joined the Aeros for the postseason after going 4-5 with a 4.10 ERA in 15 starts at Triple-A Buffalo.
"Jeremy was Jeremy," Akron manager Tim Bogar said. "That's what you expect out of him, attacking the strike zone, using his fastball to both sides of the plate. He's under control at all times and never gets flustered. He's a joy to watch."
"I know there's pressure, lose and we're done," added Sowers. "But everyone's attitude was great, and we were able to shift the momentum back in our favor after a few close games."
Jeffrey Stevens followed with two scoreless frames and Shawn Nottingham gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in the ninth as the Aeros rebounded from a pair of one-run losses to open the best-of-5 series.
Choy Foo capped a four-run first with a two-run single and stroked an RBI double in the third as Akron raced out to a 5-0 lead. Ryan Goleski lifted a sacrifice fly in the first and delivered an RBI groundout in the fifth to make it 6-0.
Horne, who was 12-4 with a 3.11 ERA this season, surrendered five runs on five hits and three walks with one strikeout in three innings.
"I give our hitters a lot of credit," Bogar said. "They laid off some close pitches. He was around the zone, but not in it. Horne has great stuff. He was just a little bit off tonight and we took advantage of it."
Argenis Reyes belted a solo homer, his first of the playoffs, in the eighth and Stephen Head and Brandon Pinckney drove in the other runs for the Aeros.
Cody Ehlers' run-scoring groundout in the ninth broke up the shutout and P. J. Pilittere added an RBI single for the Thunder, who remained one victory shy of their first title since joining the Eastern League as a Detroit affiliate in 1994.
This is Trenton's first trip to the Finals in six playoff appearances.
The Thunder will send Daniel McCutchen (3-2, 2.41 ERA) to the mound for Game 4 against Robert Brownlie (1-2, 3.17).
McCutchen hopes to follow in the footsteps of former teammates Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, who are already enjoying success at the Major League level after beginning the season with Class A Advanced Tampa. McCutchen went 11-2 with a 2.50 ERA at Tampa before his mid-July promotion to the Thunder.
Brownlie, a 2002 first-round draft of the Chicago Cubs, signed with the Indians in July.
As for Sowers, he could be back in Cleveland as early as Monday for a possible Sept. 26 start for the Indians.
"I feel like I'm pitching the best I've pitched all year," said Sowers, the Indians' first-round pick in 2004 out of Vanderbilt. "If the organization feels I'm ready to go up and have an impact, then I'm ready for that."
NOTES: Akron is without starting catcher Wyatt Toregas, who was hospitalized with a viral infection. Toregas made the bus trip back to Akron with his teammates after Wednesday's loss in Trenton before being admitted to St. Thomas Hospital on Thursday. Bogar admitted that he's been worried about Toregas, but he's heard that all of the catcher's blood work has come back normal. When reached by phone, Toregas sounded tired and said he's sent his parents out to the store to get a radio so he could at least listen to the game. ... Horne was a first-round pick by the Indians out of high school, but chose to go the college route. He headed to Ole Miss before undergoing Tommy John surgery and transferring to junior college to rehab close to home. He then went to Florida for a year before signing with the Yankees as an 11th-round pick in 2005. ... The Thunder
lost in the Eastern League semifinals in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2005 and 2006 before advancing to the title round this year.