SOUTH BEND, IN - On Saturday night at Four Winds Field the South Bend Cubs extended their winning streak to nine games, defeating the Lake County Captains 7-6. The Cubs never led the contest until the last pitch of the game. The Captains offense struck first, and Lake County starter Brady Aiken shut down the Cubs hitters for the first half of the game. Nonetheless, the Cubs were undeterred, saving their best for last, with a walk-off grand slam home run by catcher Tyler Payne.
The Bowling Green Hot Rods fell to West Michigan Saturday night, 3-0, bringing the Cubs to within two games behind Bowling Green in the race for the Eastern Division second half wildcard spot. The Cubs have eight games remaining in the Midwest League regular season.
The Lake County Captains, the Class-A Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, jumped out to an early lead, putting up three runs in the top of the first. South Bend pitcher Erling Moreno walked the first two batters, shortstop Luke Wakamatsu and second baseman Alexis Pantoja. Moreno struck out right fielder Mitch Longo, with Wakamatsu stealing third base on the strike out pitch. Catcher Li-Jen Chu came up next, hitting a fly ball that was caught by Cubs left fielder Luis Ayala, but deep enough for Wakamatsu to score on a sacrifice fly. Designated hitter Emmanuel Tapia kept things going with a single to center which advanced Pantoja to third. First baseman Jose Vicente put up two more runs with a deep fly ball to center that plated Pantoja and Tapia.
The Captains added another run in the fourth inning, jumping to a 4-0 lead. With two outs and a full count, third baseman Jorma Rodriguez managed to reach on a walk. The next batter, left fielder Todd Isaacs brought Rodriguez around to score with a double down the left field line.
Lake County's starting pitcher, Brady Aiken took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before giving up a two-run single to Cubs third baseman Austin Upshaw. In all, Aiken went six innings, giving up two hits and one earned run. He walked three and struck out six, with one wild pitch.
In the top of the sixth the Captains extended their lead to 5-0. Tapia led off the inning with a walk. He scored from first when Rodriguez put a line drive double into the left field corner.
South Bend got themselves on the board in the bottom of the sixth, making the score 5-1. Catcher Tyler Payne led off the inning with a ground rule double that bounced over the left field fence. He moved up to third on the wild pitch by Aiken, and scored when shortstop Andruw Monasterio grounded into a fielder's choice.
The Captains put up their sixth run in the top of the seventh. After Longo smacked a double to deep left-center, he was brought home by a Chu double to deep right field. The Cubs clawed back a run in the bottom of the inning, bringing the score to 6-2. Right fielder Chris Pieters led off the inning with an infield single to first base. He moved from first to third on a wild pitch by Lake County reliever Alsis Herrera, and scored when Upshaw put a single into left field.
South Bend added another run in the eighth, to close the gap to 6-3. Second baseman Yeiler Peguero led off with a fly ball double to left field. After stealing third, Peguero scored on a Monasterio sacrifice fly to deep center.
The Cubs completed the dramatic comeback in the bottom of the ninth. Facing the Lake County closer, Dalbert Siri (BS, 2; L, 1-2), Pieters led off with a fly ball double to the left field corner. He moved up to third on a 4-3 groundout by designated hitter Joe Martarano. Siri then hit Upshaw with a pitch and walked first baseman Jhonny Pereda. With the bases loaded Payne stepped into the box and drove the first pitch from Siri over the left field wall for the game-winning grand slam.
The walk-off, four RBI hit allowed South Bend relief pitcher Yapson Gomez (W, 1-0) to collect his first win of the seasons.
The South Bend Cubs and Lake County Captains continue the series on Sunday afternoon at Four Winds Field. Tyson Miller (6-5, 4.40 ERA) will take the mound for South Bend. Juan Hillman (6-9, 5.82 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for Lake County.
First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m., gates open at Noon.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.