There was certainly no shortage of excitement in Colorado Springs on Saturday night as the Sky Sox dug themselves out of an early seven-run deficit to shock the Iowa Cubs in a 9-8 walk-off victory in front of 3,750 fans at Security Service Field.
Sox starter Taylor Jungmann would strike out the first batter of the game, I-Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, on three straight pitches. This promising result would not be a trend however as Jungmann would hit a rough patch starting with the very next batter. The Cubs would wind up putting four runs on the scoreboard in the first frame on the strength of a Junior Lake RBI single and a towering three-run home run off the bat of third baseman Christian Villanueva, giving him three of his five RBI on the ballgame.
Right-hander Dallas Beeler made the start for Iowa after a late activation from the disabled list. Beeler would face the minimum six batters through his first two innings of the 2015 season, striking out two Sky Sox along the way. He would bend a bit in the third inning however, allowing one run to score after the recently-promoted Brandon Macias got his team rolling with a triple to the right field corner with just one out. The triple represented the first Triple-A hit of Macias’ young professional career. In his first at bat with the Sky Sox, Jungmann would help his own cause, driving Macias home from third on a 5-3 RBI groundout.
The Colorado Springs offense would continue on the comeback trail over the following two innings after Jungmann allowed three more runs between the second and fourth. In all, Jungmann would allow seven runs on ten hits and two walks while striking out three. The Sox would quickly chip away at the 7-1 deficit starting in the home fourth, sending eight batters to the plate en route to a three-run frame. The runs would be scored without the benefit of an extra-base-hit as the Sky Sox compiled three singles and a walk off of Beeler. Ariel Peńa would take the mound in the fifth and retire the side in order in relief of Jungmann with the help of a sharp slider and crisp fastball. More importantly, Peńa kept Iowa off the board and maintained the 7-4 score heading into the Sky Sox fifth.
Rick Sweet’s club would once again send eight batters to bat in the fifth, scoring three more runs to add to Beeler’s final line. The game’s original starter, Carlos Pimentel, would come on for Iowa in the fifth after Beeler failed to record an out after allowing a leadoff double to the hot-hitting Matt Long and consecutive walks to Pete Orr and Luis Sardinas. Each of Pimentel’s inherited runners would score as the right-hander threw two wild pitches, each scoring one run for the Sky Sox, and allowed the third runner to cross the plate on Nevin Ashley’s RBI fielder’s choice groundout. The Sky Sox would come all the way back to tie the game at 7-7, taking advantage of any and all miscues made by the opposition.
The game would remained knotted at seven until Peńa, in his third inning of work, gave up a leadoff triple to catcher Taylor Teagarden and RBI single to Villanueva. Upon Iowa taking the lead, Brent Leach came on to limit the damage with one out in the seventh. He would single-handedly end the inning with a pickoff of Villanueva at first and swinging strikeout of right fielder Rubi Silva.
Cubs reliever Yoanner Negrin held the Sky Sox scoreless for two innings, striking out two before turning the ball over left-hander Joseph Ortiz (0-1, 4.70) to close out the ballgame with his team holding a late 8-7 lead. Right-handers Brandon Kintzler, making his first appearance since being activated from the disabled list, and Corey Knebel (1-0, 1.29) pitched beautifully out of the Sox ‘pen, making quick work of the eighth and ninth innings. The relievers combined to pitch two scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out one.
With his team trailing by one heading into the bottom of the ninth, leadoff hitter Matt Long would double to left-center to keep the home team’s hopes alive. Long would move to third on a Pete Orr sacrifice bunt before being cut down at home on a weekly hit Luis Sardinas grounder. Sardinas would reach first base to keep the game going but, with two out in the inning, things were not looking up. Matt Clark would immediately ease the Colorado Springs faithful’s collective minds as he took the first pitch he saw from Ortiz over the right field wall to send an electrified stadium crowd home happy with a 9-8 walk-off victory.
New Sox addition Tyler Thornburg (NR) gets the call on Sunday afternoon as he is set to face off with I-Cubs right-hander Donn Roach (1-0, 2.60). First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 PM MDT at Security Service Field.