Senators Walk-Off with a Walk, Win 7-6

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The Harrisburg Senators fought back to overcome two three-run deficits on their way to a 7-6 walk-off victory over the Akron RubberDucks. The Senators (33-28) set a season-high with 16 hits on a sunny afternoon in front of 5,547 fans at FNB Field.

“The boys came back from the beginning and found a way at the end,” manager Matt LeCroy said.

Deadlocked at six entering the bottom of the ninth inning, Isaac Ballou led off with a double down the right field line. After a perfectly executed bunt by Adrian Sanchez moved Ballou up to third base, Chris Bostick popped out and Akron consecutively walked Kevin Keyes and Shawn Pleffner to load the bases. That set the stage for Brian Jeroloman who drew the walk to force home the game-winning run.

“The toughest part is you want to be aggressive,” Jeroloman said. “It’s unique because when a guy pitched around two guys before you, it’s hard to re-gather the strike zone. So, it’s not that I was trying to be selective. I was just looking for a fastball out over the plate to put the barrel on the ball.”

Brian Jeroloman drew the game-winning, bases loaded walk in the Senators' 7-6 victory (Will Bentzel / MiLB)

Brian Jeroloman drew the game-winning, bases loaded walk in the Senators’ 7-6 victory (Will Bentzel / MiLB)

Phillips Valdez made his Class AA debut for the Senators and struggled in the early going. Akron registered four hits and a walk off Valdez in the first inning on their way to scoring three runs. In the next frame, the RubberDucks rallied with two more hits, two more walks, and a hit batsman to plate an additional two runs off the lithe 24-year-old. Valdez settled down and posted zeroes after that as he worked 5.2 innings allowing five runs on nine hits and four walks while striking out five.

“You could tell he had some jitters. He had a hard time throwing it over early. Against a team like this, they made him pay,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “He actually made some good adjustments.”

“A lot of guys would fold there, he did not,” Jeroloman said about his starting pitcher. “It’s tough. Your first jump to Double-A, you really want to prove yourself. You start trying to overthrow a little bit, but he calmed himself down. He did a great job executing later in the game. I was really proud of him for the way he competed after those first two innings of adversity.”

The Senators’ offense picked Valdez up with five runs of their own over the first three innings. For the second straight day, Harrisburg cashed in with good situational at-bats as Ballou and Neftali Soto came through with an RBI groundout and sacrifice fly, respectively. Pleffner delivered the big blow when he delivered a two-out triple to the deepest part of the park that drove in two. Jeroloman followed with an RBI single to drive in Pleffner and tie the game up.

The score remained knotted at five until the bottom of the eighth inning when Harrisburg took their first lead. Rafael Bautista picked up his fourth hit of the day (and third infield single) but Akron shortstop Ivan Castillo had the rushed throw go wide enough to score Pleffner rounding third base.

“He’s going to make things happen because you know he can run. It forces you to do things you don’t like to do as an infielder,” LeCroy said about Bautista. “He puts pressure on them all of the time.”

“For us to win the way we’ve been winning is what we preached out of spring training. Play hard, gut everything out, and put pressure on them. That’s what they keep doing and we’re winning games.”

Andrew Robinson was stellar in relief of Valdez working from the sixth through the ninth inning. One strike away from the victory, Akron’s Bradley Zimmer launched an opposite field home run that tied the game up. The RubberDucks subsequently loaded the bases, but Robinson (4-0) retired Jeremy Lucas to end the threat.

The Senators look for the series sweep against the RubberDucks as the two teams conclude their four-game set on Monday evening at 7:00 p.m. Greg Ross takes the mound for Harrisburg opposed by Akron’s Adam Plutko. The game can be heard on Fox Sports 1460 AM, on the internet at senatorsbaseball.com, or through the TuneIn and iHeart Radio apps with The Matt LeCroy Show beginning the radio broadcast at 6:45 p.m.

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