SOUTH BEND — The South Bend Silver Hawks overtook the Bowling Green Hot Rods in grand fashion Thursday evening, July 31, at Four Winds Field.
After struggling throughout two games and eight innings of the three-game series against the Hot Rods (48-60), the Silver Hawks (63-45) broke through with five runs in the bottom of the ninth en route to celebrating an 8-7 walk-off win.
Benefiting from the struggles of Bowling Green reliever Luis Cabrera, who walked the bases loaded, Hawks third baseman Joe Munoz stepped to the plate against Brad Schreiber (2-6) and launched a grand slam home run over the left field wall to tie the game at 7 apiece.
South Bend then secured the win with back-to-back doubles from designated hitter Jamie Westbrook and first baseman Marty Herum.
The Bowling Green Hot Rods, Class-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, had won 12 of the previous 16 meetings this season against South Bend.
They struck first with a pair of runs in the top of the first. With two outs, designated hitter Oscar Hernandez took the count full before drawing a walk. Third baseman Ty Young followed with a home run into the right-field parking lot to give the Hot Rods an early 2-0 lead. The runs broke Hawks starter Markus Solbach’s 18-inning scoreless streak.
The Hot Rods padded their lead by adding a run in the second. Left fielder James Harris led off with a double to center. During second baseman Doug Duran’s at-bat, Harris crept out to an aggressive lead. Hawks catcher Grant Nelson fired to shortstop Andrew Velazquez, who turned and fired to third. Velazquez’s throw was low and wide of Joe Munoz at third. The throwing error allowed Harris to reach third safely, and to continue on home to score.
Bowling Green plated two more runs in the top of the third. Hernandez led off the frame with a double to center. A single by Young move Hernandez to third. First baseman Darryl George then grounded a ball to Velazquez at short. Velazquez tossed to Fidel Pena at second to get Young on the fielder’s choice, but Hernandez was able to scamper home. After stealing second, George came around to score on a double to right-center by Harris to push the Hot Rods lead to 5-0.
The Hawks managed to get on the board in the bottom of the third. With one out, Velazquez drew a walk from Bowling Green starter Jaime Schultz. Left fielder Chuck Taylor followed up, connecting on his second of four hits on the night, this one a single to right to advance Velazquez to second. Munoz then laced a single to center to bring Velazquez around to score.
The Hot Rods got the run back in the top of the fourth. With two outs, shortstop Pat Blair singled to left. Hernandez followed with a single to center to push Blair to third. A third straight single, this one by Young to right, scored Blair to give Bowling Green a 6-1 lead against Solbach.
South Bend inched closer in the bottom of the fifth facing Bowling Green reliever German Marquez. Center fielder DJ Bowman led off and launched an 0-2 pitch over the left–field fence for a solo homer to bring the Hawks within 6-2.
The Hawks bullpen did their part in keeping South Bend in the ball game. Alex Byo entered in the top of the fifth and pitched three scoreless innings of relief.
Then in the seventh, Bowman lofted a ball to shallow right-center. As the ball entered the Bermuda Triangle, it dropped between the second baseman and right fielder as Bowman continued to second. Taylor plated Bowman with his double to the left-field corner to bring the Hawks within 6-3.
Bowling Green added a run in the top of the eighth off Hawks reliever Bud Jeter. George led off with a triple to cente. Harris then knocked a double of his own to right as George rounded the bases to push the Hot Rods’ lead to 7-3.
The Hawks refused to go quietly. First, closer Silvino Bracho (W, 3-0) sat the Hot Rods down in order in the top of the ninth. To start the bottom of the ninth, Bowling Green summoned Cabrera from the bullpen. Cabrera proceeded to walk the first three batters he faced. After walking the bases loaded Hot Rods manager Michael Johns went to the pen for Schreiber to face Munoz. Munoz blasted a 1-1 pitched over the left-field fence for the game-tying slam.
The blast gave Munoz 5 RBIs on the night. The Hawks rally did not end there. With two outs, Westbrook doubled deep into the left-field corner. First baseman Marty Herum then stepped into the box. Herum lined a double to center to score Westbrook from second, giving the Hawks the 8-7 victory, and earning a Gatorade shower from his teammates.
The Silver Hawks kick off the final month of the 2014 season with a six-game road trip beginning Friday night against the Dayton Dragons, Class A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, at Fifth Third Field. The first pitch is set for 7:00 p.m. with Sean Furney (7-5, 4.20) taking the mound for the Hawks and Amir Garrett (4-6, 3.75) starting for the Dragons. After three games in Dayton, the Hawks head south to meet up with the Hot Rods again, this time at Bowling Green Ballpark, in Bowling Green, Ky.
The Hawks return to Four Winds Field on Thursday, August 7, at 7:05 p.m. when they will welcome the Great Lakes Loons, Class A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, for four games.