Durham’s Mike Fontenot delivered the go-ahead RBI single in the 11th inning after Vince Belnome had tied the game with a solo home run in the ninth as the Bulls came from behind to defeat the Pawtucket Red Sox, 4-3 in 11 innings, Wednesday night before 4,116 fans at McCoy Stadium in game two of the best-of-five Governor’s Cup Finals.
Pawtucket led 3-0 after two innings but failed to score thereafter while Durham’s offense plated the game’s final four runs. Mikie Mahtook also homered for the Bulls, whose bullpen tossed 9.2 scoreless frames between five different hurlers.
The series is now tied at one win apiece with games three through five scheduled to be at Durham Bulls Athletic Park beginning on Thursday night.
The PawSox held a 3-2 lead into the ninth and turned to closer Heath Hembree to try and finish a one-run victory for the second straight night. But after striking out Tim Beckham to begin the frame, Belnome clubbed his first homer of the postseason out to right to tie the score and ultimately force extra innings.
Durham’s winning run in the 11th was unearned against reliever John Ely (0-1), who worked a scoreless 10th but then walked Belnome to leadoff the 11th. After a strikeout of Nick Franklin, Ely had to leave the game with an injury and was replaced by Ryan Verdugo.
Verdugo’s first pitch was fouled off by Ali Solis, but catcher Ryan Lavarnway made contact with Solis’ bat and was charged with interference leaving runners on first and second. That set the stage for Fontenot, who grounded Verdugo’s pitch into right to plate Belnome with the winning tally.
Pawtucket’s Justin Henry earned a two-out walk against Adam Liberatore (1-0) in the bottom of the 11th, but Liberatore finished the victory by striking out Bryce Brentz. Liberatore had fanned Corey Brown to escape a bases loaded jam in the 10th.
Brown’s two-run home run (2) against Bulls starter Alex Colome put the PawSox ahead 3-0 with no outs in the second inning. An RBI groundout by Lavarnway in the first had plated the game’s first run. Colome lasted just 1.1 innings and allowed three runs and three walks.
Pawtucket starter Brian Johnson allowed just two runs on four hits in six innings during his Triple-A debut, striking out seven in the process. Mahtook’s two-run blast (1) in the third inning cut the Bulls’ deficit to 3-2. Neither team would score again until the ninth.
Game three of the series is slated for a 7:05pm first pitch on Thursday night. Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles will turn to left-hander Henry Owens (0-0, 11.25), while the Bulls are slated to throw righty Matt Andriese (11-8, 3.77). Radio coverage on 920 AM (WHJJ) and also streaming online begins at 6:50 pm.
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