Today wasn’t a typical walk in the park for the Charlotte Knights after last night’s loss at the hands of the Durham Bulls in front of a season-high crowd of 10,585 for the annual “Pink Knights” game, but today was one of the longest games that the Knights have played in the short history of BB&T Ballpark, as they would take the Bulls all the way to the 12th inning, before prevailing in the bottom half of the frame to defeat Durham by the final score of 5-4, improving their record on the season to 20-18, as they remain in first place in the International League South Division.
Charlotte would fall early, after Anthony Ranaudo would retire the first two batters of the game, Bulls right fielder Jaff Decker would put the Bulls on top with his third home run of the season to give Durham a 1-0 edge going into the home half of the first inning, when Charlotte would come back with a three-run rally to take the lead. The rally would be started by J.B. Shuck, as he singled to centerfield off Bulls starting pitcher Blake Snell, and he would take second base on a fielding error by Mikie Mahtook. Matt Davidson would follow up with a single of his own, and the next batter for Charlotte would be Jason Coats, as his RBI single was good enough to bring in Shuck to tie the game at 1-1. A few batters later, Andy Parrino would clear the bases as he would plate in Davidson and Coats with a 2-RBI single to give the Knights a 3-1 edge.
Despite giving up the home run, Ranaudo was solid in his Charlotte Knights debut, going only 4 innings, while striking out 4 Bulls and allowing 3 hits on the afternoon. In the latter stages of the game, the Bulls weren’t going to go down quietly, as Decker would draw a walk in the sixth inning, and after third baseman Richie Shaffer popped out to Matt Davidson in foul territory, Nick Franklin would hit a line drive double to right field to drive in Decker to make it a 3-2 game, and he was credited with an RBI, after taking third on a throwing error by Parrino.
It would continue to remain a 3-2 lead for Charlotte until the top half of the ninth, as Tommy Kahnle, who came into the game back in the 8th inning, was working on a save opportunity, but Durham had other plans, as Shaffer would start the top of the inning with a single, then Franklin followed up with a double that allowed Shaffer to move over to third. After a strikeout of Bulls designated hitter Kyle Roller by Kahnle, Daniel Robertson would put Durham on top with a go-ahead 2-RBI double, bringing home Shaffer and Franklin to make it a 4-3 game going into the bottom of the ninth inning, and many of the 10,222 that were in attendance was hoping for a Knights comeback win.
Travis Ishikawa, who came into the game back in the bottom of the six to take over for Jacob May, reached base via a walk to start the bottom half of the inning for Charlotte. Tim Anderson would strike out for the first out of the bottom of the ninth, and Shuck came up and he would draw a walk of his own, moving Ishikawa to second. A few batters later, Jason Coats would draw a walk off of Bulls reliever Tyler Sturdevant to load up the bases, setting the stage for Daniel Fields to possibly be the hero for the Knights, and he would easily walk in the game-tying run to even things up a 4-4, as it would go into extra innings.
It would be a battle of the bullpens from the top of the 10th until the bottom half of the 12th, but the game would have a turning point back in the top of the 11th, and there were two outs in the inning, and Luke Maile would single to Parrino, and with Patrick Leonard on first as a pinch-runner, Terance Marin would pick off Leonard at first to keep the game tied at 4-4, which would remain that way until the bottom of the 12th, as the Knights were in prime position to come away with the win.
Daniel Fields would start off the bottom of the Charlotte 12th with a single to left field off of Parker Markel(L, 0-1), and he moved up to second after a sacrifice bunt by left fielder Leury Garcia, and there was another turning point in the game that went the way of Charlotte, as out of the blue, Fields would steal third base without a throw. After a strikeout of Parrino, it would be up to Omar Narvaez, Charlotte’s catcher, to be the hero, but he was hit by a pitch to put him at first. With two outs in the bottom of the 12th, and runners on the corners, Ishikawa was at the plate, and Markel’s first pitch of the at bat would turn out to be a wild pitch off the glove of Bulls catcher Carlos Corporan, and Fields would slide head first into the plate, and he was ruled safe to end the game and to give the Knights a 5-4 win in 12 innings to take the series 2-1.
The Charlotte Knights will be back in action on Monday night at BB&T Ballpark as they welcome in the top farm team of the Minnesota Twins, the Rochester Red Wings with a first pitch time slated for 7:05 p.m., and the pitching match-up for tomorrow night’s game will feature Erik Johnson(2-1, 3.77 ERA) taking the mound for Charlotte, while Tommy Milone(1-0, 1.59 ERA) will be on the hill for the visiting Red Wings.