07/29/2015 12:12 AM
July 29th, 2015
Sauget, IL—30 Runs. 38 Hits. Ten Home Runs. Two Errors. 13 Innings. The Evansville Otters (42-19) and Gateway Grizzlies (22-28) combined for an outrageous game at GCS Ballpark with the Otters escaping with a 16-14 victory in 13 innings.
The game started off normal. Neither team scored for the first two innings. That would change in the third when the Otters scored three runs, the first on a sacrifice fly by Dane Phillips, the latter two on Chris Sweeney’s ninth home run of the season. The Grizzlies got one back in the bottom of the frame, cutting the lead 3-1.
The Otters went right back at it in the fourth inning as Cory Urquhart took advantage of the short porch in right, a theme that would become rampant later on in the game, shooting a solo shot over the wall in right for a 4-1 lead. John Schultz made it a 5-1 game with an RBI single later in the frame to plate Dean Wilson as it looked like the Otters were on their way to another comfortable win.
However, GCS Ballpark’s short right field would make itself known to the Otters and allow the Grizzlies to climb back into the action. With a solo home run in the fifth, a two out RBI single in the sixth and then another solo shot in the seventh, the Grizzlies pulled within one.
Connor Little did his job by going 1.1 innings pitched between the end of the seventh and the eighth innings, giving the Otters’ All-Star closer Edgar Lopez a chance to finish off the Grizzlies.
Lopez, who up until tonight had been a perfect 18-for-18 on the mound, got the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth with a groundout and a strikeout. The only batter that stood between him and the Otters’ 42nd win of the season was Blake Brown, who had already homered in the affair. With the count 3-2, Brown waited on the pitch and sent a fly ball to right, which cleared the short porch and short fence, tying the game at 5-5 and giving Lopez his first blown save of the season. Lopez would get out of the inning, sending the game to extras when things got unimaginably weird.
Phillips led off the tenth inning and took the first pitch he saw and pulverized it out to right for his fourth home run of the season and putting the Otters in the lead 6-5. Lopez went back out in the tenth inning and walked the leadoff batter. He struck out the next man before issuing another walk and relinquishing back-to-back single to tie the game 6-6 and leaving the bases loaded with one out. On an 0-1 pitch to Madison Beaird, Lopez jammed Beaird who sent a soft liner right back to him, it hit off of Lopez’ glove and deflected toward the second basement Josh Allen. Allen fielded the ball on one hop, tagged out the runner going from first to second and fired to Nik Balog over at first for the 1-4-3 double play and sending the game into the eleventh and the International Tie-Breaker Rules.
The International Tie-Breaker Rules stipulate that each team will start the inning with a runner at second base and nobody out. The rule is meant to produce runs in the extra innings; both the Otters and the Grizzlies complied in the eleventh.
Jeremy Nowak started the top of the eleventh at second base and nobody out. Kurt Wertz Jr., who had been 0-for-4 through the first eight innings, placed a beautiful bunt down the third baseline, advancing Nowak to third and also allowing him to reach on the infield single. Urquhart followed that with a slow roller to short, driving in Nowak and making it back-to-back infield singles for the Otters, but more importantly putting them ahead 7-6. Dean Wilson was up next and grounded into a fielder’s choice to leave runners at the corners once again, this time with one out. Instead of facing the All-Star Schultz, the Grizzlies elected to intentionally walk him, loading the bases for Allen.
The second basemen wasted no time coming up with his biggest swing of the season, taking the first pitch fastball and pummeling it over the right field wall for the Grand Slam and an Otters 11-6 lead. They continued to tack on the runs and the home runs in their next at bat. Phillips, who homered in the tenth, did so again in the eleventh for his fifth home run of the season and making it back-to-back home runs with the Otters ahead 12-6. Sweeney followed suit with a line drive to right that stayed just high enough and barely cleared the short wall for back-to-back jacks and putting the Otters up 13-6. Three straight singles by Nik Balog, Nowak and Wertz Jr. completed the scoring and gave the Otters a seemingly insurmountable 14-8 advantage in extra innings.
The bottom of the eleventh started with Blake Monar out on the mound for the Otters. The lefty, who had just been activated earlier in the day, got the first batter he faced on a groundout to short. The control issues that have plagued Monar came back in full force after that batter. He walked one, hit one and then walked another to force home a run and end his evening with the score 14-7 and the bases loaded. Lance Phillips was asked to get the final two outs and immediately induced a shallow liner so the Otters needed just one more out to end the ball game.
However, Lance Phillips walked his next batter to force in another run (14-8) and a single followed that to put the Grizzles within five before a double plated two to bring the tying run to the plate, and giving Beaird a shot at redemption. Phillips got ahead of Beaird 1-2 and Beaird fouled off a slider to stay alive. On the very next pitch he golfed the offering from Phillips clear of the right-field wall, tying the game up at 14-14. After the Otters scored eight in the top of the eleventh, the Grizzlies stormed right back to score eight in the bottom of the eleventh.
The Otters went down in order in the top of the 12th despite the free base runner at second with nobody out and it looked like the Grizzlies were going to complete the fantastical comeback. But Lance Phillips would not let the Grizzlies off the hook so easily. After a bunt single put men at the corners with nobody out to begin the inning, Phillips forced a fielder’s choice groundout, keeping runners at the corners with one out. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Phillips hunkered down and struck out Grant Buckner on a 1-2 slider and escaped the jam with a 4-6 fielder’s choice.
For the fourth time on the night, the Otters would take the lead, this time in the top of the 13th. Although Sweeney flew out to shallow left to start the 13th, Nik Balog singled to right to put runners at the corners for Wertz Jr., and the left-handed bat from South Williamsport snaked a double just inside of the bag at third, pushing the Otters into the lead once more, this time at 15-14. The Otters got a crucial insurance run on an error to lead 16-14 heading into the bottom of the 13th.
Because of the International Tie-Breaker Rules, the Grizzlies would be assured of stepping to the plate in the bottom of the 13th with the potential tying run at the dish. Lance Phillips was again sent out on the mound and he retired all three batters he faced including picking up a strike out to mercifully end the game 16-14 in favor of the Otters.
The 16 runs scored by the Otters were the most they have scored on the season, so too were the 21 hits. Eight different Otters record multiple hits, with Kurt Wertz Jr., Jeremy Nowak, Chris Sweeney and Nike Balog all tallying three. Dane Phillips and Chris Sweeney both had multi-home run games and Phillips is now at five while Sweeney leads the club with ten. Six different Otters scored at least two runs in the matchup with Phillips scoring three, one as the international tie-breaker runner. The Otters used six arms while the Grizzlies used seven and Lance Phillips won his first game of the season in relief.
Preston Olson, who started on the mound for the Otters, produced another quality start by going six innings and allowing three runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out two in the no decision. Tomorrow’s game time is scheduled for 7:05 pm CDT with the pregame show featuring Jake Donnelly scheduled to being at 6:45 pm CDT. The Otters will toss Tyler Vail (7-2, 4.29) who has won his last five starts and has produced a quality start in four of his last five outings against the Grizzlies's Jason Ziegler who is making just his second appearance of the season, but has struck out three in two scoreless innings of work.
The Otters will not be back in Evansville, IN until next Wednesday when they will start a three game series against the Frontier Greys with a doubleheader on Wednesday. That game will be Princess Night at Bosse Field with the first pitch of Game One scheduled for 5:35 and the gates opening at 5 pm CDT. Fans can purchase tickets by calling the team’s front office at 812.435.8686 or online at EvansvilleOtters.com. For all of the latest information on the Otters, log on to EvansvilleOtters.com or follow the team’s twitter account @EvilleOtters.