ALLENTOWN, PA – The Indianapolis Indians (68-58) went off for ten runs in the top of tenth inning on Sunday, earning a series split with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (75-51) thanks to a 15-6 win.
Jacob Stallings crushed a three-run home run to put an exclamation point on the Tribe’s ten-run frame. Sunday’s game was a back-and-forth affair before the game got to extras, including a ninth inning rally from the Pigs.
As of this writing, Indy leads the Columbus Clippers for first in the IL West by a half-game. By the time the Clips come to Victory Field on Tuesday to begin a crucial three-game set, Indianapolis will either own a one-game lead or will be tied with Columbus atop the division.
Max Moroff hit a first inning home run for the second time this series to give the Indians an early 1-0 edge, but the Pigs battled back quickly.
Indianapolis starting pitcher Nick Kingham was knocked around for three runs in the bottom of the first, giving the home team a lead. Two singles and a hit by pitch started the frame, allowing the IronPigs to tie the score at 1-1. A run-producing double play then put Lehigh Valley in front, while a two-out solo shot from Aaron Altherr shot left the Pigs up 3-1 after one.
Three straight hits to open the fourth handed the IronPigs a 4-1 advantage and soon after, Kingham’s afternoon was done.
The righty completed the fourth inning, but did not return for the fifth. His final line: four innings pitched, four runs allowed on seven hits and no walks. Kingham now has consecutive outings of four innings of work, his shortest starts of his Triple-A year.
Offensively, Indy had nothing going through five frames outside of Moroff’s long ball. Their fortunes changed in the sixth, but not due to their bats catching fire. It was the wildness of Lehigh Valley’s pitching that shifted momentum.
Tom Eshelman took the mound for the Pigs in the sixth and it was immediately clear he was struggling to find the strike zone. Eshelman issued free passes to the first two batters he saw and after getting a groundout, walked two more to force home a run for the Indians. Jason Martin followed with a RBI single and Jerrick Suiter knocked in another run with a sacrifice fly, capping a three-run inning that tied the score at 4-4.
Eshelman actually pitched into the seventh, but walked two more Tribe batters before Lehigh Valley made a change. The right-hander worked 1.2 innings, surrendering three runs on one hit and six walks.
Thanks in part to their patience at the plate, Indianapolis found themselves with new life as Sunday’s ballgame came down the stretch. The Indians the leapfrogged back ahead with a two-out surge in the eighth.
Wyatt Mathisen lined out and Martin struck out to get the eighth going, but Suiter singled to keep the Tribe alive in the frame. Pinch-hitter Ryan Lavarnway stepped into the batter’s box in place of the pitcher’s spot in the lineup and came through with the clutch knock, a double to left that scored Suiter and gave the visitors a 5-4 cushion.
The Pigs responded in a flash, however.
Dovydas Neverauskas kept Lehigh Valley off of the board in the eighth, but had no such luck as the home team hit in the ninth. Trevor Plouffe led off with a single and came around to score the tying run a batter later, as Matt McBride tripled to left. Despite the winning run standing 90 feet away with no outs, the IronPigs couldn’t end it. Neverauskas even walked one hitter and plunked another, but Lehigh Valley left the bags loaded to send another contest into extra innings.
Just like last night, the Indians quickly went on top. Back-to-back singles pushed the Tribe ahead 6-5 and that was just the beginning. Suiter and Erich Weiss each recorded two-run hits to make it 10-5, Jose Osuna notched a sac fly for Indy’s 11th run and then came Stallings. His three-run homer broke things open even further, making it 14-5. A bases loaded walk from a position player ended the scoring, making it 15-5.
Lehigh Valley did get a run in their half of the tenth, but it was nowhere near enough.
Indianapolis will have a day off on Monday before starting the aforementioned Columbus series back home at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday. Mitch Keller (2-2, 6.06 ERA) gets the ball for the Tribe.