The Akron RubberDucks finally have their first victory of the 2017 season. It wasn’t easy, but the RubberDucks got the job done thanks to some late inning magic in which they scored four runs in the sixth inning of Game 1 of their doubleheader against the Bowie Baysox and were able to hang on for the 7-6 victory.
Akron started off in the lead for a change early in the game. The RubberDucks took the lead on a solo home run by shortstop Yu Chang. It was Chang’s third straight game in which he homered and it gave the ‘Ducks a lead to work with for the first time this season. Right-handed pitcher Nick Pasquale did his part the rest of the way through.
A key part of the RubberDucks’ Championship run last season, Pasquale had a strong debut for the 2017 season. He ended up throwing 5 innings, giving up just five hits, two earned runs, zero walks and posted four punchouts. His only blemishes of the day came on an RBI double off the bat of Baysox first baseman Adrian Rodriguez in the 4th inning and a solo home run by center fielder Glynn Davis in the fifth inning.
“He threw the ball well,” noted Akron manager Mark Budzinski. “He had pretty good command of his fastball, worked in a good slider and change-up and for the most part had an opportunity to win that game.”
Akron held a slim 3-2 lead after five innings. Once Pasquale’s day was done, they turned the ball over to right-hander Cole Sulser to protect the lead. Unfortunately, Sulser’s debut was anything but smooth as he allowed four hits and three earned runs in just one inning of work. He allowed the first three batters to reach base where the third batter happened to be Rodriguez. Instead of hitting a double, he was able to leave the park this time as he launched a three-run blast to left field to give Bowie a 5-3 lead.
Just like that the ‘Ducks were staring at their third straight loss to open the season. Things quickly changed in Akron’s favor in the bottom of the sixth. Second baseman Tyler Kreiger, whom was making his 2017 debut with the RubberDucks, led things off with a double into the gap in right-center. Right fielder Mike Papi drew a walk to put runners on first and second with no one out. Then left fielder Dorssys Paulino drew another walk and the bases were juiced.
Third baseman Joe Sever didn’t waste any time as he slapped a grounder up the middle to score two runs and tie the game. Akron was back in it in the blink of an eye. That’s when things really took a turn for the better when center fielder Greg Allen dropped a perfect bunt in front of the batter’s box and forced Bowie right-hander Jefri Hernandez to leave the mound and field it.
He fired a perfect strike to Rodriguez at first, but Paulino caught him sleeping and quickly rounded past third base and raced home. Rodriguez tried to recover in time and throw a strike to mow him down at the plate but the throw was late. The ball got away from Baysox catcher Audry Perez and went out of play. That in turn allowed Sever to cross home as well and the ‘Ducks now held a 7-5 lead after trailing 5-3 to begin the frame.
Right-hander Mitch Brown took the hill to try and close things out in the seventh. Things got off to a rocky start as right fielder Jay Gonzalez drew a leadoff walk. Brown was able to throw the first out of the inning, but allowed Gonzalez to get to second on a wild pitch. Third baseman Drew Dosch dropped a soft fly ball into shallow center to get Gonzalez home and the Baysox were within a run. Akron pitching coach Tony Arnold came out to the mound to give Brown a quick pep talk. Whatever he said worked as the very next pitch Brown induced a game-ending double play off Audry Perez. A wildly entertaining game had finally ended and Akron could breathe a sigh of relief as it finally smelled victory for the first time in 2017.
1st Inning: 11 pitches
2nd Inning: 14 pitches
25 pitches (16 strikes)
Pasquale was efficient throughout the first few innings of work. He faced the minimum number of batters through the first three innings as he was able to establish his fastball and set up his secondary pitches the first time through the order.
His toughest inning was in the fourth when he allowed harder contact on some balls. Left fielder Cedric Mullins slapped a single into right field and was able to get to third on a long single off the wall in right-center by Perez. Rodriguez got Bowie on the board thanks to a scorching line drive into the gap in left-center, but Pasquale was able to knuckle up and induce a strikeout and inning-ending groundout to third base to keep the game tied at 1.
“It was nice to get out of there with only run,” admitted the right-hander
Kipnis takes the next step:
Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis joined the RubberDucks for Game 1 of the doubleheader. The second baseman is in the advanced stages of recovering from a shoulder injury and is beginning a rehab assignment to develop a rhythm for the game before rejoining the team.
“This is what you work for, what you’re rehabbing for the whole time to get back into an actual game. It was fun,” Kipnis said with a smile.
He ended up going 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout in the game as he played in the designated hitter’s position. He is expected to play second base in Monday’s game against the Trenton Thunder and after that will take a day off to see where things stand and determine the next course of action.