Pelicans rally to win Game 1 of Mills Cup in extra innings

pel-solerAfter the Wilmington Blue Rocks rallied to tie Game One of the Mills Cup Championship Series in the bottom of the ninth, Pelicans catcher Victor Caratini collected an RBI single in the tenth inning to lead the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, to a 3-2, extra-inning win at Frawley Stadium on Sunday. The Birds now lead the best-of-five series, 1-0.

In the tenth, with the game tied at 2-2, Pelicans second baseman Daniel Lockhart led off with a sharply hit double to the right-field wall. A walk and a sacrifice bunt put two men in scoring position before Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler, with the Pelicans on a Major League rehabilitation assignment, was walked intentionally to load the bases. Caratini then ripped a single into right-field to give the Birds a 3-2 lead that would prove to be the difference in the ballgame.

The late inning drama was preceded by a back-and-forth affair, with both teams erasing one-run deficits.

Myrtle Beach (81-57, 3-1 postseason) trailed 1-0 after Ryan O’Hearn smashed a solo homer in the second, but the Birds rallied back to take the lead in the sixth. With a man at first base and one out, Soler ripped a game-tying double into the left-center field gap. Two batters later, Mark Zagunis lined a single to left that put the Birds in front, 2-1.

After the O’Hearn home run, Wilmington (62-77, 2-1 postseason) failed to score until the ninth and squandered opportunities in the seventh and the eighth innings. With two Blue Rocks in scoring position in the seventh, Pelicans reliever Josh Conway stranded both runners to preserve the 2-1 lead for Myrtle Beach. In the eighth, a leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt again put the tying run in scoring position, but Conway used a looking strikeout and a fly out to strand him there.

The Blue Rocks finally came through to tie the game in the last frame of regulation, but the Birds staved off a potential walk-off defeat. With the Pelicans leading 2-1 into the bottom of the ninth, Wilmington loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk against right-hander Jasvir Rakkar with nobody out. David Berg came in from the Pelicans bullpen to replace Rakkar and induced a fielder’s choice at third base, where Jason Vosler threw out the tying run at the plate. Another fielder’s choice allowed the tying run to score when the Pelicans failed to turn a game-ending double play, but Berg stranded the winning run at third base with a ground out to second.

In the tenth, after Myrtle Beach took the 3-2 lead, Berg got designated hitter Carlos Garcia to ground out to shortstop before striking out the final two batters of the game and sealing the Game One win for the Pelicans.

Berg (1-0) took the win on Sunday after working two perfect innings of relief. Pelicans starter Jen-Ho Tseng finished with no decision in six innings of work. The right-hander allowed one run, earned, on three hits while walking one and striking out four.

Blue Rocks starter Zach Lovvorn finished with 5 2/3 innings in the book en route to a no decision. He allowed two runs, both earned, on eight hits while walking one and fanning six.

Luis Rico (0-1) was the losing pitcher. He tossed 3 1/3 innings in relief of Lovvorn and surrendered one hit and one run, which was earned. He walked one and struck out five.

Sunday night’s Game One was the first postseason contest between the Pelicans and Blue Rocks since Game Four of the 1999 Mills Cup Finals. The two teams split the Carolina League championship that season when Game Five was cancelled due to Hurricane Floyd.

Soler finished his night 1-for-4 at the plate with a run scored and an RBI double. He also walked and struck out three times. Soler is expected to remain with the Pelicans throughout the remainder of the Mills Cup Championship Series.

The Birds will face the Blue Rocks in Game Two of the Mills Cup Championship Series on Monday.

Photo by Larry Kave/MB Pelicans

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