The Thunder have put together a successful run through the Eastern League playoffs and it didn't stop last night. In a close game that saw multiple lead changes and lots of drama until the last strike was thrown, Trenton once again came up victorious and could sweep another series with a win tonight in Harrisburg. Trenton got on the board early as Mason Williams reached on an error in the first and moved to third on a single by Ramon Flores. A sac fly by Jose Pirela scored Williams and put the Thunder ahead 1-0. They held that lead through the early innings, but Harrisburg finally got their bats going in the top of the fourth. Justin Bloxom started the inning with a single and Rick Hague drew a walk. A bunt let Trenton get the runner at third, but Jerad Head followed with a single up the middle, tying the score at 1-1.
The Senators took their first lead of the day in the top of the fifth, as Billy Burns drew a one out walk and stole second, moving to third on a throwing error by Gary Sanchez (who would make up for it by the end of the inning). Bryan Mitchell walked Brian Goodwin and Steven Souza hit a weak grounder to short. Ali Castillo tried to get the inning-ending double play, but was only able to get the runner at second as Harrisburg took a 2-1 lead. Souza then tried to steal second, but Sanchez gunned him down with a great throw from his knees, ending the inning.
The lead was short-lived, as Pirela singled in the bottom of the inning and Sanchez drew a walk. A "swinging bunt" by Tyler Austin moved the runners over and Kyle Roller dribbled a grounder to second, allowing Pirela to just beat the throw to the plate and tie the game 2-2. Gamel followed with another infield grounder, but the Senators couldn't get the double play and Sanchez scored for the 3-2 advantage.
Harrisburg quickly responded, as Bloxom drew a walk in the top of the sixth. Hague looked like he was going to get a nice single up the middle, but somehow Pirela deflected the hit off his glove and into Castillo's hands for the force out at second. Carlos Rivero drew a walk and a double by Head scored Hague to tie the game yet again. Jeff Howell followed with a sac fly, as Francisco Rondon replaced Mitchell on the mound, and the Senators once again held the lead.
Trenton took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh. Austin and Roller drew walks and Ben Gamel singled to load the bases. A single by Corona scored Austin and Castillo hit a slow roller to second, where Harrisburg's only play was to first. Casey Stevenson, who had replaced Roller on the bases, scored and Trenton took the 5-4 lead. Things got exciting in the top of the ninth, when a pair of singles gave Harrisburg some life with only one out. Tommy Kahnle got Goodwin to fly out and then struck out Souza to preserve the 5-4 win and put Trenton just one victory away from their third EL crown.They play tonight (weather permitting) in Harrisburg at 7pm.
- Offense: The Thunder put together some good offense, despite not picking up any extra base hits. Gamel went 3-4 with a RBI. Castillo went 2-3 with a RBI and a sac fly. He also had an error. Corona went 2-4 with a RBI. The only hitters to not pick up a hit were Austin and Roller, who both drew walks and played key roles in the Thunder's final rally.
- Bryan Mitchell: It wasn't a great night for Mitchell, who lasted just 5.1 and gave up four runs (three earned) on three hits and seven walks. He struck out two.
- Bullpen: Rondon, Danny Burawa and Kahnle each gave up one hit in their outings, and did not walk anyone. They pitched 1.1, 1.2 and 0.2 innings respectively. Burawa struck out two, while Rondon and Kahnle both got one K.
- Tonight: Shane Greene (8-4, 3.18) will take the mound for the Thunder as they face off against Nathan Karns (10-6, 3.26). Karns made three appearances in the majors this year, giving up ten earned runs and five homers over twelve innings. He has held Double-A hitters to a .224 average, however.