Colin Curtis scored on a single to shallow right field as Trenton slid into a 2-0 series lead on Akron in the Eastern League Finals on Wednesday.
Curtis led off with a walk, advanced to second on reliever Jim Ed Warden's wild pitch and crossed the plate on Noah Hall's ground ball past drawn-in first baseman Michael Aubrey for a 3-2 victory at Waterfront Park.
The 22-year-old left fielder hesitated for a moment, but when he saw manager Tony Franklin behind third base frantically windmilling his arm to home plate, Curtis went into another gear and barreled home. The throw from right fielder Cirilo Cumberbatch beat Curtis by several steps, but Curtis veered into foul territory and around catcher Wyatt Toregas before sneaking his left hand under the tag and on home plate.
"When Noah hit the ball, my main concern was just getting to third base," a still-exuberant Curtis said after the game. "But when I saw coach Tony sending me, I made a hard left and ran as hard as I could. I saw the ball was going to beat me, so when I slid, I just drew my hands in so the catcher wouldn't be able to get me. Once I passed him, I reached out and tapped home."
Curtis then leaped into the arms of on-deck hitter Matt Carson before the two were consumed by a raucous dogpile of teammates.
"I've only been involved in one other dogpile before when my school [Arizona State University[ got into the College World Series, but I was in the outfield when we got the final out, and I was one of the last guys to get there," the former Sun Devil said. "I was getting squashed under there, but I don't mind getting squashed like that."
"The place was going absolutely nuts," Trenton starter Chase Wright added. "Everyone already was at the top step when Noah was up, but once Colin scored, everyone hopped over the railing to the plate. Once in a while, you'll see a game end like that early in the season, but when it happens in the playoffs, man, it's amazing."
Wright helped get the Thunder in a position to win the game. Though he wound up with a no-decision, the Texas-born left-hander gave up just two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and two walks over seven innings. He struck out four.
Wright is 1-0 with a 0.66 ERA in two postseason starts, striking out 10 over 13 2/3 innings. The Trenton staff, which led the league in five pitching categories in the regular season, is 5-1 during the playoffs, giving up just nine earned runs in 58 innings (1.40 ERA) while posting a 1.09 WHIP.
Despite the lack of run support Wednesday, Wright remained confident in his teammates' ability to grind out a win.
"I've been with these guys for most of the year, and I had absolute faith in them and trusted that they'd be able to make a run at some point in the game," he said. "Pitching has been the backbone of this team, but without all the other guys, we wouldn't be here in the first place."
Reliever Scott Patterson (1-0) came away with the win, giving up two hits and striking out two in a scoreless ninth. Hall went 3-for-5 and Marcos Vechionacci and Gabe Lopez each had a double and a single. Lopez's two-bagger to left tied the game in the eighth.
Michael Aubrey cranked an RBI double and scored on a throwing error by third baseman Vechionacci for the Aeros.
Warden (0-1) gave up a run on one hit, one walk and one wild pitch while retiring one batter. Starting pitcher Chuck Lofgren allowed an earned run on six hits and six walks, fanning three, over five innings.
Trenton will attempt to win its first Eastern League title Friday at Akron's Canal Park, with league's Pitcher of the Year Alan Horne taking the mound for the Thunder against the Aeros' Jeremy Sowers.