Akron’s Eric Haase was the hero of Sunday night, clinching an Eastern League Western Division Series win with a walk-off single in the tenth inning. He still had a little magic left in that bat of his on Tuesday as his grand slam in the fifth inning powered the RubberDucks over the visiting Trenton Thunder by a 6-3 final in Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series.
Trenton jumped on top with two runs in the first against Akron starter Michael Peoples. Tyler Wade singled to start the game but was picked off by Peoples at first. Dustin Fowler singled, but was erased on a force out at second on a grounder to short by Miguel Andujar. Nearly out of the inning, Mike Ford homered to right, scoring Andujar to make it a 2-0 Trenton lead.
Akron could not score in the second after getting back-to-back two-out walks from Haase and Eric Stamets, but they did not miss out on a scoring opportunity in the third as they tied the game against Trenton starter Ronald Herrera. Ivan Castillo and Greg Allen singled to start the inning, putting runners on the corners for Yan Gomes. The rehabbing Indians catcher singled on a liner to center to score Castillo and move the speedster Allen to third. Jordan Smith grounded into a force at second, but Allen scored on the play to make it a 2-2 game.
Trenton used a pair of extra base hits to reclaim the lead in the fourth. Mark Payton doubled to left with one out and after a strikeout by Dante Bichette Jr., Billy McKinney doubled to left to score Payton with the go-ahead run.
The RubberDucks stranded a pair in scoring position in the bottom half as Stamets walked again and moved to third with two outs on a double to left from Castillo. Allen struck out swinging to squash the rally.
Gomes was back at it for the ‘Ducks in the fifth, doubling to left to start the inning. After a strikeout by Smith, Nellie Rodriguez singled to left to move Gomes 90 feet from home. Mike Papi walked to load the bases as Trenton brought in Travis Hissong for starter Herrera. Haase delivered, hitting the big one-out grand slam to left to give Akron a 6-3 lead.
Peoples worked around a leadoff double in the sixth and a two-out walk, getting a liner to left to end the inning. He worked a much more routine seventh, getting two groundouts and a strikeout in his final inning of work.
David Speer got into trouble in the eighth as the Thunder threatened with nobody out. Andujar tripled to left to start the inning and Ford drew a walk, bringing the tying run to the plate with nobody out. Speer struck out Payton looking before Cole Sulser entered from the ‘Ducks pen, getting a double play comebacker to the mound to end the inning. He stayed on for the ninth, getting a fly out from McKinney before a pair of ground balls from Sebastian Valle and Abiatal Avelino to end the game.
Akron takes a 1-0 lead in the series with the victory. Peoples earned the win with Sulser getting the save in relief. Peoples allowed three runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out eight in seven innings of quality work on the mound. The ‘Ducks pitching staff held the Thunder to a 1-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position as Trenton stranded six on base. Herrera took the loss for the Thunder, allowing five runs on six hits with four walks and eight strikeouts in four and one-third innings.
Gomes added two more hits during his rehab assignment, knocking in one and scoring another on the night. Haase added his third double of the postseason in his 2-for-3 game, scoring one while driving in four. Castillo had a single and a double with a run scored from the ninth spot in the order.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series will take place in the season finale from Canal Park on Wednesday night.
Left-hander Rob Kaminsky (11-7, 3.28 ERA in 25 starts) will take the mound for the RubberDucks, while fellow left-hander Will Carter (3-7, 4.61 in 21 games at three levels) will oppose for the Thunder. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 PM ET.
Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com