Hilligoss Walk Off Hit Propels Baby Bombers Over Cyclones In 10 Innings
STATEN ISLAND, NY -It had been a rough night for Mitch Hilligoss but that all changed with one swing of the bat.
After going hitless in four previous plate appearances, the Staten Island third baseman delivered a game winning RBI single off Brooklyn reliever Grady Hinchman which scored Wilkins De La Rosa to propel the Baby Bombers to a 2-1 10th inning victory over first place Brooklyn before 5,231 at Richmond County Ball Park Tuesday night.
"That's great," Hilligoss said. "We haven't been playing the best baseball. We didn't play a flawless game tonight but we made pitches when we had to. We made plays when we had to and we got a few timely hits."
It helped snap a two-game losing streak and allowed Staten Island (28-20) to gain a split of the home-and-home series against the Cyclones (29-19) and pull within a game of first place in the McNamara Division.
"That was a big win for us obviously but the way we battled- if you don't win it, it's going to be a letdown," skipper Gaylen Pitts pointed out. "I thought it was big time that we comeback and win...Keep pace with them and had a good crowd here. There's a lot of excitement. We pitched well and we executed well."
With the game tied an inning earlier, three consecutive two out hits by the Bombers nearly ended it but when Francisco Cervelli rounded third on Chris Kunda's sharp single to left, he was nailed at home on a perfect relay throw from Brooklyn's Dustin Martin to catcher Daniel Cummins (7-2 putout) to force extras.
After reliever Nick Peterson (2-2) tossed a second scoreless inning by working around two walks to strand runners at second and third, the Bombers got another chance to end it and cashed in.
"It feels good to get them back and win the ballgame," Peterson pointed out after he and his teammates turned the tables on the Cyclones, who a couple of weeks prior had victimized the closer in a similar spot. "We got them back tonight. It feels good."
De La Rosa ledoff the 10th by working a walk on a full count. Seth Fortenberry's successful sac bunt which moved him into scoring position nearly turned into an infield hit but Rip Warren's throw to Jeremy Hambrice just nipped him.
Warren (1-2) was pulled in favor of Hinchman to face Hilligoss. Having cooled off recently, this time he waited perfectly on a curveball and lined it into right to win the game in dramatic fashion and touch off the Bombers' second celebration in four nights. Their last win Saturday over Lowell was also of the walkoff variety off the bat of Fortenberry.
"It was great," Tuesday's latest hero added. "I just kept saying, 'Stick with it.' And that's what I kept trying to stay back. I didn't do a very good job of it but sometimes you get the breaks."
"It's big. Mitch came through big- hit the ball real well. We're fortunate to have him," noted Peterson.
The Bombers got a solid outing from starter Tim Norton, who went the first five allowing just an unearned run along with three hits and fanning five. Brooklyn's only run came in the fifth. With two out, Luis Rivera was safe when Kunda dropped the ball while applying the tag which would've ended the inning. He came around to score on a Joe Holden RBI single.
"I would've liked to go a couple of more innings and give the pen a little rest but my pitch count was up," Norton said. "I felt pretty good. My fastball was there. Walked a couple of people but overall I thought I pitched pretty well."
Down one, the Bombers responded by manufacturing a run before Brooklyn starter Todd Privett recorded an out. After Wilmer Pino doubled to left, he advanced to third and scored the tying run on two wild pitches.
With the game knotted, a key defensive play by Kunda prevented the Cyclones from going back ahead. With Brooklyn threatening with a runner on second and two gone against reliever Jonathan Hovis, Tim Grogan lined a single up the middle which the hustling shortstop got his glove on to prevent it from going to the outfield and then in one turn nailed Mark Wright at home 6-2 to end the threat.
"That was a huge play. You can't blame them for trying to score there, making something happen with the way the pitching was going and the long throw, [Kunda] came up and made it look easy," Hilligoss said.
"They had the go-ahead run on second base and I was just trying to keep the ball on the infield with two outs," Kunda said. "Luckily, [Wright] around third kept going, put his head down and tried to score and I was able to make a good enough throw at the plate and [Cervelli] did a good job snuffing out the run."
"It was a big win. Especially against Brooklyn who was a couple of games up on us right now in the division standings. Huge win to get back at them after getting beat at their place (Monday) night and now we go on the road for six games and we got to do a good job of trying to win as many games as we can. They're not going to give any games away. They're going to be right there till the end and we got to stick with them."
Notes: The Staten Island bullpen tossed five scoreless innings in the win. Luke Trubee, Hovis and Peterson combined to shutdown the Brooklyn bats. "The bullpen has been outstanding all year," Pitts said. "Sometimes, they've been a little bit overworked cause our starters have pitch counts and don't always give us enough innings. It takes its toll but for the most part they've done an outstanding job." ... Of the upcoming six-game road trip which starts with three at Tri-City later tonight and concludes in Jamestown this weekend before the All Star break, Pitts added: "Every game's important and we got a team that we're playing tomorrow that I heard through the grape vine is pretty good. They lead their division. We'll see what happens." ... The Baby Bombers don't return home to St. George until next Thursday when they host Mahoning.