PAWTUCKET, R.I. - Jantzen Witte smashed a walk-off home run to power the Pawtucket Red Sox to a 2-1 victory in game one as part of the doubleheader split with the Rochester Red Wings on Saturday in front of a sell-out crowd at McCoy Stadium.
"I was looking for something middle that I could hit hard," Witte said. "That was pretty much it."
Held without a hit by Rochester (30-33) through the first six innings of the scheduled seven-inning game, the PawSox (34-30) broke through in the seventh to tie the first game and won it in the bottom of the eighth.
In the nightcap, Rochester rode a five-run second inning to a 7-5 victory to split the double-dip to begin the four-game series.
Rochester starter Yohan Pino (L, 0-4) faced the minimum through six hitless innings and ended up yielding the two runs on four hits and two walks over 7.2 innings.
PawSox starter Kyle Kendrick scattered seven hits over five innings of one-run ball with a pair of strikeouts. Reliever Noe Ramirez (W, 3-2) then took over and dealt three shutout stanzas with three strikeouts, no walks and just two hits.
After failing to capitalize on prime opportunities in each of the first two innings, Rochester broke through in the fifth inning. Shortstop Engelb Vielma and center fielder Zack Granite led off the frame with consecutive singles. Right fielder J.B. Shuck then plated Vielma with an RBI groundout to second.
Pawtucket finally mounted an offensive threat in the seventh. Center fielder Rusney Castillo led off with a single to short to break up the no-hit bid, but he was promptly erased on a 6-4-3 double play. With the PawSox down to their final out, left fielder Steve Selsky stroked a single to center. Selsky then scored all the way from first when designated hitter and cleanup man Bryce Brentz short-hopped an RBI double off the wall in left-center to tie the game. Pino then stranded a pair of runners to force extra innings.
With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth, Witte drilled Pino's 1-0 offering to the left-center berm to send Pawtucket to another victory to begin the doubleheader.
PawSox starter Marcus Walden (L, 6-3), who entered the game with a 2.01 ERA, allowed seven runs on eight hits and two walks in just three innings. Righty Brandon Workman, armed with a fastball that touched 94 MPH, followed with three shutout innings and a pair of strikeouts.
Red Wings starter Matt Tracy (W, 2-0) ceded five runs on five hits in five frames, and Kam Mickolio (S, 1) earned the save in the seventh.
Rochester started the scoring in the top of the first inning when, after working a leadoff walk and advancing to third, Granite scored on a wild pitch.
Pawtucket quickly responded, however, in the home half of the first. After the first three batters reached on a single, a hit batter and a walk, Brentz tagged a grand slam to left-center to make it 4-2.
In the second, Rochester cut back within one when Vielma blooped an RBI double near the left-field line. Two batters later, Shuck unloaded a two-run rocket to right-center to vault the Red Wings ahead, 5-4. Following a single, cleanup man Tommy Field followed suit with a two-run blast the opposite way to stretch the margin to 7-4.
The PawSox trimmed the gap to two, 7-5, in the fifth when catcher Dan Butler led off with his first home run of the season.
Pawtucket concludes its four-game series against Rochester with another doubleheader Sunday, beginning at 12:35 p.m., at McCoy Stadium. Pawtucket left-handers Henry Owens (4-4, 3.72) and Edgar Olmos (3-1, 2.48) are the scheduled starters. Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the PawSox Pre-Game Show at 12:05 p.m.
The seven-game homestand runs through Wednesday. Good seats are available, and fans can visit the McCoy Stadium box office, which is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., and during all home games. Fans can also call (401) 724-7300 or log on to PawSox.com for tickets.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.