ALTOONA, PA -- The Altoona Curve completed a sweep of the Thunder in the Eastern League Championship Series with a 4-2 win on Thursday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The Curve completed the sweep with another dominant pitching performance, this time by Mitch Keller who went 7.1 innings and struck out eight.
The Thunder got both of their runs in Game Three off of Keller in the second inning when Dante Bichette Jr. started the inning with a double off the way in left-center. After Nick Solak was hit by a pitch, and eventually removed with an injured hand, Abiatal Avelino bunted them both into scoring position. Zack Zehner drove in Bichette with a groundout to short and Rashad Crawford plated a second run with a hustle double into shallow left field.
Will Carter retired the first seven batters he faced in the game before the Curve offense broke through. 11-of-the-next-16 men faced by Carter reached base and it culminated with a four-run fifth inning for Altoona. With one man out and the bases loaded, Carter kept the Curve off the board with a leaping grab on a groundball back to the mound off the bat of Kevin Kramer. However, Jerrick Suiter worked a bases loaded walk and and Jin-De Jhang cleared the bases with a triple off the right field wall.
Trenton's offense had their best chance at a rally in the eighth inning when a tiring Keller returned to the mound. Crawford led off the frame with a single and Francisco Diaz walked to put men on first and second. Keller came back to strike out Jeff Hendrix, his eighth of the game, then was lifted for reliever Johnny Hellweg. Hellweg walked Thairo Estrada to load the bases and then Billy Fleming came to the plate. Fleming checked his swing on a 2-1 offering and saw the ball land out in front of the plate leading to an easy fielders choice out for Altoona's catcher. Dante Bichette Jr. then bounced out to the shortstop to end the threat.
Altoona closer Tate Scioneaux struck out the side in order in the ninth inning to give the Curve their second Eastern League Championship in 19 seasons of play.
The Thunder fall to 3-4 all-time in Championship series' and were swept in the finals for the second straight season. Stretching back to the start of the 2016 season and including the playoffs, the Thunder have gone 185-111 (.625). In 2017 the Thunder lost three straight ballgames just twice during the regular season before the sweep at the hands of the Curve.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.