Eric Haase’s one-out RBI-single in the tenth inning ended a dominating pitching performance by both Akron and Altoona as the RubberDucks defeated the Curve 1-0 to win the Eastern League Western Division Championship on Sunday night.
An incredible pitcher’s duel between Altoona’s Brandon Waddell and Akron’s Nick Pasquale took place on the mound in Akron as the pitchers matched pitch for pitch, out for out, with the RubberDucks’ righty coming away with the slightly longer outing in the impressive display from both young arms.
Pasquale was perfect through the first four innings, striking out batters in the second, third, and fourth innings while working outs in the air and on the ground almost evenly. Waddell matched his effort, getting at least one strikeout in each of the first four innings (and two in the second), but his chances of perfection were gone after a two-out error in the first on third baseman Eric Wood that allowed Jordan Smith to reach safely.
In the fifth inning, the perfect game ended for Pasquale as Jin-De Jhang singled to center to lead off the inning, but a force out and a pair of strikeouts ended the inning for Altoona. Waddell returned to the mound and, just as was the case for his counterpart, gave up a leadoff single to Mike Papi to start the frame to end his no-hitter. A walk by Haase put two on, but Eric Stamets grounded into a double play. With the first base runner to reach scoring position standing on third base, Mark Mathias grounded to third to end the first legitimate scoring opportunity of the game for either club.
Pasquale put himself in danger for the first time in the sixth, when he walked Altoona’s Chris Diaz and advanced him to second on a wild pitch. He walked Anderson Feliz to put two on, but got a grounder to Ivan Castillo at third, who went around the horn for the double play.
Pasquale had faced just two over the minimum through the first six frames. With a quick and easy bottom half of the sixth, Waddell matched him at two over the minimum. He and Pasquale both kept that the same in the seventh, when Akron set Altoona down in order and Smith walked to start the home half before Waddell got a double play grounder and a second groundout to end the inning.
Stetson Allie walked to start the eighth inning for Altoona, but he stayed at first as Pasquale worked through the next three Curve hitters in what would be his final inning of the night. Brett McKinney replaced Waddell to start the bottom half for Altoona, retiring the side in the eighth and working around a two-out walk by Daniel Salters in the ninth to force extra innings with the game still scoreless.
Through nine innings, each team had just one hit to their credit. That would change in the tenth.
Louis Head, in his second inning of relief of Pasquale, struck out Jhang and Allie to bookend a quiet tenth for Altoona, needing a win to send the series to a deciding game five. McKinney and the Curve could not contain the ‘Ducks any longer, however, as Papi doubled with one out and scored on a line drive single to left by Haase to capture the Western Division Championship Series.
The win sends the RubberDucks to their tenth appearance in the Eastern League’s championship series.
Pasquale worked eight innings of scoreless baseball, giving up a hit and three walks while striking out seven. His counterpart Waddell lasted seven innings, giving up a hit and two walks with five strikeouts.
Papi had two of the three hits for the ‘Ducks on the night and the only extra base hit in the contest.
Akron will get a well-deserved day off on Monday before the Trenton Thunder come to town to start the Eastern League Championship on Tuesday night. The RubberDucks will host each of the first two games, with the remaining three to be played in Trenton, as necessary.
Right-hander Michael Peoples (13-6, 3.65 ERA in 28 games at Akron and Columbus in 2016) is believed to be in line for the Game 1 start for Akron, while 21-year-old right-hander Ronald Herrera (10-8, 3.94 ERA in 24 starts at Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) will start for Trenton.
Game time on Tuesday and Wednesday will be 6:35 PM ET from Canal Park.
Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com