First off, congratulations to Iowa Cubs catcher P.J. Higgins and South Bend pitcher Zach Mort who won your vote for the Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for August!
The “official” awards handed out by the Cubs went to Cubs 2 infielder Luis Verdugo and Smokies pitcher Cory Abbott.
Now it’s on to the playoffs!
Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year Colin Rea took the mound for Iowa. The Express jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Drew Ferguson hit a two-run home run off of Rea. But other than that, Rea kept Round Rock from scoring another run, scattering six hits and three walks over six innings. Rea struck out four.
Iowa couldn’t do anything off of Express starter Kent Emanuel until the sixth inning. Johnny Field doubled in the fourth inning for Iowa’s first hit of the night and then he tripled in the sixth inning for their second hit. A sacrifice fly after the triple by P.J. Higgins gave Iowa their first run of the game.
In the seventh inning, Trent Giambrone and Vimael Machin both singled with one out. That led to Emanuel coming out of the game. But reliever Ralph Garza walked the first batter he faced, Zack Short, to load the bases and then Charcer Burks tied the game with another sacrifice fly.
Iowa and Round Rock bullpens then kept both teams in check until the 11th inning. James Norwood was perfect over two innings of relief and then Dakota Mekkes tossed a 1-2-3 tenth inning to keep the game tied 2-2. (Runners do not start on second base in extra innings during minor league playoff games. That needs to be said.)
Iowa looked like they were going to win when they jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the top of the 11th. Higgins and Phillip Evans led off the inning with singles. The next batter up, Jim Adduci, hit what looked like a perfect double-play ball, except that it went through the legs of Express second baseman Alex De Goti. Higgins scored the go-ahead run and Evans made it to third base. Giambrone made it 4-2 with Iowa’s third sacrifice fly of the game.
Manager Marty Pevey called upon Maples to close out the game and it looked like it was going to be easy at first. Maples did walk the second batter he faced, but he got fly outs from the first and third hitter of the inning. With two outs and one on, Maples just needed one more out to win game one.
This is when Maples lost the strike zone. He gave up a single, a wild pitch and then walked another batter to load the bases. A second wild pitch of the inning scored the runner from third to make it 4-3 and just as importantly, put the winning run on second base. Maples then surrendered a walkoff two-run single to Chas McCormick and Round Rock took a 1-0 lead in the series.
Field and Machin were both 2 for 5. Iowa only had seven hits in the 11-inning game.
The two teams will meet for game 2 in Round Rock on Thursday night. Tyson Miller is scheduled to start for Iowa.
South Bend Cubs
The South Bend Cubs scored two runs in the first inning and hung on to beat the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays), 2-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Clayton Daniel walked to lead off the bottom of the first inning and he stole second base with two outs. Nelson Maldonado then singled Daniel home with a liner off the pitcher’s leg to score the first run of the game. The next batter, Jake Slaughter, tripled him home.
That was the last run that South Bend would score. But it proved to be enough as South Bend turned in several strong pitching performances. Starter Faustino Carrera pitched five scoreless innings, giving up four hits. He walked two and did not strike anyone out.
Next up was Ivan Medina, who pitched 1.1 innings without allowing a run or a hit. Eugenio Palma relieved Medina with one out in the seventh and struck out the next two batters close out the seventh.
But when Medina gave up a double to Ford Proctor, the first hitter of the eighth inning, manager Buddy Bailey called on his closer Brian Glowicki for a two-out save. Glowicki struggled in the eighth. After a ground out moved Proctor to third, he then scored Bowling Green’s first run when Glowicki uncorked a wild pitch. After a strikeout for the second out, Glowicki walked the next two batters, putting the go-ahead run on first base. But Glowicki ended the threat with a ground ball to third.
Glowicki came back out for the ninth and retired the Hot Rods in order for the save. His final line was no runs on no hits and two walks over two innings. Glowicki struck out two.
This was a pitcher’s duel as both teams had only five hits. Maldonado was 2 for 3.
The two teams now bus down to Bowling Green for game two and game three, if necessary.
There are highlights.