TRENTON – The Trenton Thunder put the Eastern League on notice with a rally for the ages on Wednesday night, recording five straight two-out hits to defeat the Binghamton Mets 6-5 in ten innings and take a 1-0 lead in the best of five series.
Binghamton jumped out to a late lead when they scored a pair of runs off Thunder reliever Pat Venditte in the 10th inning. With stalwart Mets closer Jeff Walters, who recorded 38 saves – the second-most in Eastern League history – warming in the bullpen, the outlook appeared bleak for Trenton.
“It’s tough to get runs off those guys, it’s tough to beat pitchers like Syndergaard and Walters,” Thunder manager Tony Franklin admitted after the game. “I’m not saying it’s any more special, but they’re the class of the league.”
After Walters retired Mason Williams and Ramon Flores, Jose Pirela started the rally by slicing a double into the right-center field gap, giving the Thunder signs of life as they were down to their final out. Pirela scored one batter later when Gary Sanchez poked a single up the middle. Tyler Austin then stepped to the plate as the tying run, and when down to his final strike, hit a single towards the right side.
It was then that things got truly interesting. Thunder home run leader Kyle Roller would have been the hitter, but he was pinch-run for by light-hitting Casey Stevenson in the ninth inning. Stevenson would hit a blooper just over the third baseman's head into shallow left field, allowing the tying run to score. Ben Gamel then played the role of hero, lining a single into right field and scoring Tyler Austin to give the Thunder their most exciting victory of the season.
“I was really just looking for something up, something I could handle,” Gamel said of his game-winning at-bat. “I put a good swing on it.”
“This is kind of what we’ve done all year and kind of what we’ve talked about all year, and that’s just to keep playing,” Franklin chimed in. “No matter what the circumstances or where we are in the game, [we] just keep playing. We’ve done that a couple times this last couple of weeks, and it’s worked out very well for us.”
Austin had told reporters before Wednesday’s game that it was “going to be a long night” for Binghamton starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The 21-year-old outfielder certainly did his part to back up the trash talk in his return to ARM & HAMMER Park, smashing three hits, including two doubles resulting in a pair of RBIs against the Mets starter. Afterwards, Austin was all smiles as he talked about that final exciting inning.
“We just believe in one another, we believe in each guy that steps into the box and we believe in every guy we throw out there on the mound,” Austin told reporters. “That’s what we take out there. This is a great team, and I’m excited to see what the next few games have to hold.”
With the 1-0 series lead in hand, the Thunder and the Mets are back at it again on Thursday night. Right-hander Mikey O’Brien (7-8, 4.12) will take the ball for Trenton, squaring off against Darin Gorski (6-1, 1.83), who has been lights out for Binghamton this season. First pitch from ARM & HAMMER Park will be 7:05 PM.