MANCHESTER, N.H. - The Fisher Cats overcame a pair of two-run deficits in the eighth and ninth innings on Saturday night, and then they outlasted the Portland Sea Dogs to grab a 5-4 win in 11 innings at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Roemon Fields drove home the winning run as New Hampshire grabbed its second straight walk-off victory to improve to a season-best six games over .500 (48-42).
After using four walks in the ninth inning to secure victory on Friday, it was a quartet of singles that did the trick in the 11th inning on Saturday. Tied 4-4 with one out, Jack Murphy singled to start the rally against losing pitcher Madison Younginer (L; 3-4). Shane Optiz followed with a single, and then Emilio Guerrero loaded the bases with his own base hit to left field. That brought up Fields, who bounced a high chopper over the shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin to bring home the game-winning run.
The rally was only made possible by some late-inning magic from the Fisher Cats bats. They loaded the bases in the eighth inning when Jon Berti reached on an error by Lin. Two runs scored on the play to tie the game at 2-2.
Portland answered right back in the top of the ninth thanks to Sam Travis' first Double-A home run. But in the bottom of the ninth, leading 4-2, Younginer issued a walk and a single before Murphy laid down a sac bunt. Shane Opitz followed by drilling a double into the right field corner to even the game up again at 4-4.
The wild finish took the spotlight away from the two storylines that developed before and during the game. Entering the contest the focus was on Double-A rookie Jeff Hoffman, the Blue Jays first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2014. The righty did not disappoint, allowing two runs over a career-best 6.1 innings. He struck out three, didn't issue a walk, and took a no-decision thanks to the late rallies.
During the game, the spotlight shifted from Hoffman to Portland's Luis Diaz. The righty hadn't made it out of the sixth all season before he was locked in on Saturday. Diaz tossed seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits and a pair of walks. He was denied the win when the Fisher Cats rallied in the eighth.
Danny Barnes earned the victory for the Fisher Cats, tossing a pair of scoreless innings. Younger allowed three runs to talk his second loss against the Fisher Cats this season.
New Hampshire has won the series and can now sweep it on Sunday afternoon. They are 19-6 over their last 25 games, and they've won seven of their last eight series.
The teams meet up for the finale of the series on a very busy Sunday afternoon at 1:35 p.m. It's National Ice Cream Day with the first 1,000 fans receiving an ice cream bowl thanks to ExpressMed Urgent Care. One fan will also walk away with free ice cream for a year courtesy of HP Hood. Fans need to bring their cameras as Curious George, Anna, Elsa, and the New England Brethren of Pirates will all be on hand for photos. After the game, all kids can run the bases thanks to the Buyers Beware Campaign. Tickets are available at www.nhfishercats.com, by calling 603-641-2005, and by visiting the stadium box office.
The pitching match-up in the finale has lefty John Anderson (5-3, 4.27) on the hill against Portland's Mike McCarthy (4-4, 3.95). Tom Gauthier and Bob Lipman have the radio call beginning at 1:15 p.m. on the WGIR Fisher Cats Radio Network and www.nhfishercats.com.