ZION, IL 8-6-2010 — Down to one final out, Cristian Guerrero hit a heart-stopping, game-tying home run in the top of the ninth inning and Mike Valadez drove in the game-winning run in the 10th as the Gary SouthShore RailCats pulled off their most exciting win of the year, 4-3 over the Lake County Fielders Friday night.
Staring squarely at a second straight loss, the RailCats trailed 3-0 into the seventh inning of Friday’s game and were still behind 3-2 when Guerrero came up with the bases empty and two out in the ninth. Lake County’s Chris Homer – who had been a perfect 11-for-11 in saves on the year – saw his first pitch rocketed deep over the wall in left for Guerrero’s team-leading 13th home run of the year and second in as many nights.
In the tenth, Louis Ott walked with one out against Chad Lundahl (1-1) and Mike Rohde grounded a base hit through the hole on the right side to push Ott to third. Valadez followed with a hit-and-run single lined into right that put the RailCats in front for the first time all night. Andy Shipman (4-1) worked both the ninth and tenth innings, striking out Northern League home run leader Joshua Short with the tying run on base to end the game.
Lake County starter John Brownell was excellent in most of his outing, retiring 15 in a row from the second through sixth innings before Mike Massaro started the seventh with a bunt base hit. Guerrero was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second with two outs for Tanner Townsend, who tripled into right-center to score both runs.
The win was the RailCats first in 35 games this season when trailing after eight innings and marked just the fourth time all season the ‘Cats had erased a deficit to win in the seventh inning or later. Before the two seventh inning runs, the ‘Cats had been held scoreless for 15.0 straight innings in the series.
LaPorte native Andy Weeks was forced to make an emergency start for the RailCats and more than held his own, allowing three earned runs on eight hits in 6.0 innings. Weeks walked two and struck out four, allowing runs in the first and second innings but nothing more until a Short home run – his 23rd of the year – leading off the sixth. Jeff Williams gave the RailCats two perfect innings of relief before Shipman worked the final two frames to earn the win.
The RailCats had only seven hits in the game, three in the final two innings. Guerrero and Massaro each had two hits to lead the attack. Short and Cody Strait each had two hits for the Fielders, who out-hit the RailCats 8-7.
The RailCats (35-36) and Fielders (30-40) will meet again Saturday night at 6 p.m. for the third game in a four-game series. Right-hander Nolan Nicholson (4-3, 4.34 ERA) will make his 10th start for the RailCats opposite Lake County right-hander Garry Bakker (3-7, 5.66 ERA). The game will be broadcast live on 89.1 FM, The Lakeshore, and online at www.railcatsbaseball.com.
Notes: Guerrero’s two home runs and Townsend’s Friday triple are the RailCats only three extra-base hits in the series … Weeks made his second start as a professional and turned in easily his longest outing of the year, going 2.1 innings longer than in his first pro start Sunday in Joliet … the RailCats left only four runners on base in the game … the RailCats are now 8-4 against the Fielders this season.