COLUMBUS, Oh. – Just when it looked like the Indianapolis Indians were in control of Tuesday’s Game 1, the Columbus Clippers rallied for an unlikely victory at Huntington Park.
The Tribe led 5-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, but a late comeback capped by a game-winning solo home run from Audy Ciriaco in the eighth lifted the Clippers to a 6-5 win and an 1-0 series lead.
Starting pitchers Chris Volstad and Ryan Merritt exchanged scoreless innings early, but Indianapolis got on the board first with a run in the third. Gustavo Nunez led off with a single, then moved up to second on a groundout and to third on a wild pitch before Gorkys Hernandez made it 1-0 with a RBI single off of Merritt.
It did not take long for Columbus to answer, however, as the Clippers tied the game against Volstad and the Indians in their half of the third. With runners on the corners and two outs after a pair of base hits, Jesus Aguilar came up with the big RBI single that evened the score at 1-1.
The back-and-forth game continued in the top of the fourth, when the Tribe took back their one-run lead. Josh Bell singled and Keon Broxton walked, setting the stage for Dan Gamache to put Indianapolis ahead 2-1 with a two-out RBI single to left.
Indianapolis appeared to break the game open in the seventh, when they scored four runs and ended Merritt’s night. Consecutive singles and a failed sacrifice bunt attempt opened the inning, forcing Columbus to call on their bullpen.
Trey Haley replaced Merritt, but a RBI groundout from Willy Garcia and a run-scoring passed ball by Clippers catcher Adam Moore gave the Indians a 4-1 advantage. Bell drew a walk after the passed ball, advanced to second on a wild pitch and then scored on a RBI single from Broxton to push the Tribe’s lead to 5-1 entering the seventh inning stretch.
Merritt finished with a final line of four runs allowed on nine hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings pitched. Haley was able to end the inning, but left after giving up a run on one hit and two walks in 2/3 of an inning on the mound.
Volstad, on the other hand, cruised through his six innings of work. The right-hander surrendered one run on six hits and seven strikeouts, but once the Indianapolis bullpen took over in the bottom of the seventh, the Clippers got to work.
A.J. Morris entered the game for the Tribe and after getting a line out to begin the inning, a single and two doubles made it 5-2 and left runners at second and third. Josh Wall then came on to pitch and gave up a two-run single to Zach Walters and a RBI double to Moore that tied the game at 5-5.
The two Indianapolis relievers combined to give up four runs on five hits in the seventh.
Wall would go back to the hill in the eighth and the first and only batter he faced came up with the game’s biggest hit. Ciriaco led off the frame with a solo shot to left, giving the Clippers their first lead of the night at 6-5.
In the midst of all of the Columbus offense, Clippers reliever Joseph Colon held the Indians in check in the game’s last two innings. Colon was perfect, striking out four batters and retiring the Tribe in order to secure the comeback win for Columbus.
Game 2 is set for Wednesday, as Indianapolis looks to knot the series up at one game each in their final road contest of 2015. First pitch from Columbus is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. with Wilfredo Boscan (10-3, 3.07 ERA) penciled in as the Tribe’s probable starting pitcher.