-The Tri-City ValleyCats and Auburn Doubledays squared off Monday night in game three of a best-of-three series with the winner hosting game one of the Championship series on Tuesday. The game did not disappoint. Four ties and five lead changed later, the 'Cats came out on top 16-7 thanks to an 11-run outburst in the seventh and eighth innings.
For the third straight night the Doubledays scored first. 'Days shortstop Mike McQuillan hit a lead-off double to right, and would be pushed over to third by Tony Renda's perfect bunt. Both runners would come in on Wander Ramos' single, giving Auburn the 2-0 lead.
Tri-City wasted no time to get that lead back. Back-to-back walks with one out put runners on for M.P. Cokinos, who crushed one off the right field wall for an RBI-double. Two more walks would bring in the game-tying run for the 'Cats and would simultaneously end the night for Doubledays starter Nicholas Lee.
It was not over.
Auburn collected another run in the third. With two outs in the inning, Ramos would hit another single, this one to left field, scoring Shawn Pleffner to give the Doubledays their second lead of the game.
The 'Cats battled back again, scoring a run of their own in the third. Catfish Elkins would hit a lead-off single, and be pushed to second and third on back-to-back groundouts. ValleyCats catcher Tyler Heineman would single Elkins in to tie the game again.
It was not even close to over.
Tri-City plated single runs in the fourth and fifth to take a two run lead. The 'Cats were issued five walks in those innings to boost the offense. Walks would go on to plague the Doubledays all night.
But it still was not over.
Auburn tied the game with two runs in the top of the sixth, and took the lead in the seventh off a big 'Cats miscue. Jeremiah Meiners easily retired the first two batters of the seventh, but once again Ramos would single with two outs to start another rally. Ramos took off for second during the next at-bat, and Meiners threw over to catch him on the base path. Jesse Wierzbicki would receive Meiners' throw and try to get the out at second base with a throw of his own, but the ball skipped into left field and Ramos would take third base. Carlos Lopez would single him in to give the Doubledays a late lead.
Wierzbicki would later atone for the mistake.
The ValleyCats saved all their bullets for late in the game. They sent a combined 20 men to the plate, scored 11 runs, walked five more times, and pounded out seven hits between the seventh and eighth innings. Wierzbicki would deliver the final blow with a bases-clearing three-RBI double, which gave the home team a 10-6 advantage. Each ValleyCat hitter reached base during that span, essentially putting an end to the four-hour grudge match.
"That was an awesome game from both sides," said ValleyCats Manager Stubby Clapp. "Their guys never stopped. They just kept hitting and hitting, and hitting - finding ways to get on. Same with our guys. They were relentless. Finally we got some big hits, some key hits, and finally took over."
The 'Cats walked 14 times, a season-high this year. Clapp praised the team for their patience at the plate, but credited Auburn with a valiant effort.
"My hat's off to [the Auburn Doubledays]. They absolutely battled every at-bat," said Clapp.
Tri-City advances to the New York-Penn League Championship for the forth time in team history, the second time in three years (2004, 2006, 2010), and will take on the Hudson Valley Renegades in game one Tuesday night at "The Joe" at 6:30 p.m. EST. Tickets are still available for that game. All games in the championship series will be broadcast on www.tcvalleycats.com
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.