Spinners pull out playoff opener

Middlebrooks' blast, Dent's walk highlight 4-3 come-from-behind win

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By Steve Conley / Special to MLB.com | September 8, 2008 8:09 PM

Two outs away from losing the opener of their best-of-3 New York-Penn League playoff series, the Lowell Spinners had every reason to believe they could come back.

They'll have a few more believers after Monday night.

Will Middlebrooks hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth inning and Ryan Dent worked a bases-loaded walk in the 12th as the Spinners rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Batavia Muckdogs in Game 1 at Edward LeLacheur Park.

Middlebrooks, who managed only one homer in 209 at-bats during the regular season, connected off Batavia reliever Adam Reifer with one out in the ninth to forge a 3-3 tie.

"I was just trying to get it in the gap and get into scoring position," Middlebrooks said. "I got a fastball in, the guy was throwing hard, and I just got my hands through on it."

Casey Kelly doubled with two outs in the ninth before Dent was hit by a pitch and Peter Hissey walked to load the bases. But Reifer struck out Mitch Dening to send the game into extra innings.

After two scoreless frames, Ricardo Burgos led off the 12th with a double and moved to third on Tim Federowicz' sacrifice bunt. Middlebrooks was intentionally walked before Kelly was issued a free pass with two outs.

Dent worked the count full against Zachary Pitts (0-1) before taking a pitch inside for ball four to plate Burgos and move Lowell within one victory of its first-ever trip to the New York-Penn League Finals.

"We didn't have a whole lot of momentum coming into this series," said Middlebrooks. "We were excited to play in this atmosphere. We've been there all year and had numerous walk-off wins so it's nothing new to us."

Middlebrooks went 3-for-5 while Burgos and Hissey each doubled and scored for Lowell.

Despite having to play the next two games away from home, Middlebrooks is confident his team can take the series.

"They've never played here, but we've played there before," he said. "We know what to expect when we get there. We just got to keep the momentum going."

Robert McClain (1-0) struck out three over 2 1/3 hitless frames of relief to pick up the win. Spinners starter Kyle Weiland allowed three runs -- two earned -- on five hits while striking out six over five innings.

Pitts gave up a run on one hit and three walks with one strikeout in one inning. Muckdogs starter Hector Cardenas, who went 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA during the regular season, gave up one run on only one hit and four walks while striking out a career-high 10 over six innings.

Edwin Gomez went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored for Batavia. Box score

In other New York-Penn League action:

Jamestown Jammers 10, Staten Island Yankees 7
Ernie Banks went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and Justin Bass drove in two runs as Jamestown topped Staten Island in its playoff opener. Box score

Steve Conley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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