RailCats take Game 1 in championship series
By Michael Osipoff 713-2485 or firstname.lastname@example.org September 10, 2013 11:18PM
Railcat's Adam Klein hits one to right field scoring Danny Pulfer to tie the game at The Steel Yard on Saturday September 10, 2013. | Jim Karczewski\Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 12, 2013 6:40AM
GARY — All of the early squandered opportunities by the RailCats in Tuesday night’s Game 1 of the American Association championship series?
A distant memory.
They scored four runs in the seventh inning, highlighted by Danny Pulfer’s tie-breaking two-run double, as they defeated Wichita 9-4 at the Steel Yard.
In what proved to be a back-and-forth game — one in which Wichita used five relief pitchers and Gary four — the Wingnuts had taken a 4-3 lead in the top of the inning on Jake Kahaulelio’s three-run homer off Alain Quijano.
But the RailCats, who had broken a 1-1 tie by scraping together two runs in the sixth, answered the three-run homer by manufacturing four runs. Reid Fronk led off with a single, and Ryan Babineau followed with a pinch-hit single. After Brian Kolb got down a sacrifice bunt, pinch-hitter Nick Liles walked on four pitches to load the bases, with Zac Mitchell then getting hit by a pitch to force in the tying run. Pulfer then sent a double inside first base to give the RailCats a 6-4 lead, before Adam Klein added a sacrifice fly.
“We’re not your typical ballclub,” Pulfer said. “They have the typical ballclub, with power at the top of their lineup and speed at the bottom. But when you face us, we’re going to take pitches, we’re going to grind out at-bats, we’re going to get a cheap hit here and there. We’re going to use whole bat, whole field — that’s RailCat baseball.”
The Wingnuts had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth, but Kyle Lindquist escaped the jam.
The RailCats — who then added two runs in the eighth, including one on a Kolb single — had 17 hits against the Wingnuts, who had shut out Grand Prairie for 30 innings in their semifinal series.
“The big blow by Kahaulelio is going to knock a lot of clubs out,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. “He’s a big-time player, and he’s hurt us throughout the season. But we did a nice job coming back and withstanding a couple of their challenges.”
The RailCats had taken a 3-1 lead with two runs in the sixth. Craig Maddox opened the inning with a broken-bat single, and Kolb followed with an infield hit off the second-base bag. With the bases loaded and two outs, with the RailCats seemingly on the verge of seeing another chance fall by the wayside, Klein walked and Mike Massaro dribbled a ball down the third-base line for a hit.
“They hurt us by being patient, and we made some mistakes,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “When you have a club that handles the bat as well as they do, you have to go right at them.
“They do a good job at what they do — that’s why they’re here.”
The Wingnuts had opened the scoring in the second on a walk and two hits, with David Amberson (4-for-4) delivering a run-scoring double with two outs.
The RailCats tied the score in the fifth, as Pulfer and Klein had back-to-back one-out doubles. But they couldn’t break the tie after having runners on second and third with one out.
The RailCats had a big opportunity in the fourth, failing to score after loading the bases with no outs. In the first, they couldn’t take advantage of a break. After Massaro singled with one out, Cristian Guerrero lifted a fly ball to right-center. Center fielder Brent Clevlen lost the ball in the lights, allowing it to drop for a single to put runners on the corners, but the RailCats didn’t get on the scoreboard.
“We were in some situations that we got away with because Junior’s stuff is so good,” Hooper said of starter Junior Guerra, who touched 96 miles per hour several times on the stadium radar. “But if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.”
Note: In Wednesday night’s Game 2, the pitching matchup is scheduled to be right-hander Stephen Hiscock (1-0, 1.35 ERA in the postseason) for the RailCats and righty Chris Smith (1-0, 0.00) for the Wingnuts.