Thunder Playoff Clincher Marred By White's Status

The Trenton Thunder clinched a playoff spot on the next to last day of the season with a 7-5 win over the Harrisburg Senators at Waterfront Park on Sunday night.

It didn't look good for the Thunder early as the Senators put up three in the first on a Dan DeMent three run homer. The Senators added two more in the third on back-to-back homers by Josh Labandiera and DeMent. That made it 5-0 and Eric Schmitt would be lifted in the fourth after allowing back to back singles to start the fourth.

Ben Julianel came on behind Schmitt and shut the door and allowed the Thunder comeback to ferment, unlike the beer and champagne that would later be used to do many things, including douse the two full-time beat writers for the team.

Billy Sylvester, the Harrisburg starter, was lifted in the fourth as the Trenton bats were showing signs of life. A two out single by Omir Santos and back to back doubles by Eric Duncan and Rudy Guillen made it a 5-2 Harrisburg advantage.

The Thunder added two more in the fifth to make it a one-run Senator lead. Gabe Lopez started the inning with an infield single, Bronson Sardinha followed with a walk, and Melky Cabrera made it 5-3 with a single to right that scored Lopez. Two batters later, Santos' sac-fly scored Sardinha and it was a 5-4 game.

The Thunder bats went quietly in the sixth before raging into glory in the seventh. Cabrera led off with a double to the left field corner, Michael Coleman walked, and Shelley Duncan launched a massive three-run homer that rolled across the Route 29 beyond the left field wall.

Duncan said after the game the hit was "huge." Huge it was as it gave Trenton a 7-5 lead that they held on to and secured the franchise's first playoff appearance since 1999.

Celebratory chaos reigned in the locker room after Justin Pope worked the ninth and notched his 29th save of the year. The playoffs start on Wednesday in Portland against the Red Sox Double-A team.

One member of the Thunder team who was unable to enjoy the festivities was starter Steven White. White was admitted to St. Francis hospital in Trenton prior to Saturday night's game complaining of stomach pain. According to Thunder manager Bill Masse, it had to do with an enzyme level in his pancreas.

"Steven White went to the hospital last night after having problems with his pancreas. He was kept overnight last night and will remain there overnight tonight until they run some further tests. He's on hold for right now," said Masse before the clinching game.

White was supposed to start in Trenton's final regular season game on Monday against Harrisburg, but instead that chore will go to Calvin Maduro. The former Major Leaguer with the Phillies and Orioles will be pitching on three days rest.

Of some concern for Trenton is White's status for the team's first round playoff series with the Sea Dogs. Although manager Masse wouldn't give an exact status for White in the first round, it has been widely speculated that White could miss all of the first round because of his illness.

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