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Legends On Deck

Wild Walk-Offs Highlight Midwest League Opening Day

Remember a week ago on March 29th when we were all giddy over MLB Opening Day? Ian Happ kicked off the season in style with a homer on the first pitch before we witnessed several games end in walk-off fashion. Well, MiLB Opening Day took place on Thursday and for all of us prospect junkies, it’s just as good as the big league season opening up. The minor leaguers, especially those assigned to the Midwest League, did their best to match the excitement of March 29th with some walk-offs of their own.

There were only seven games in the Midwest League on Opening Day, Clinton @ Kane County was postponed due to snow, and three of them ended with walk-offs.

We’re going to begin with perhaps the most intriguing, and strange, walk-off of the day. (I know this is bad writing strategy and I should make you wait until the end, but I promise you’ll enjoy the other two as well.) The Fort Wayne TinCaps visited the Lake County Captains at Classic Park on a 36 degree night. If you check out the box score to this game you will see more combined errors than runs scored between the two teams. Arguably even more noteworthy than the seven combined errors, it’s Opening Day for cryin’ out loud, is that the Captains scored their three runs on just two hits.

Let’s set the scene. It’s cold and miserable outside, we have established that. The Captains haven’t been able to muster any offense and had just one hit the entire game heading into the ninth. The TinCaps lead 2-0. Nolan Jones walks to lead off the bottom of the ninth before Oscar Gonzalez pops out. One on, one out. The TinCaps are out of this thing with an Opening Day W if they can just get a measly ground ball to the shortstop. The thing about measly groundballs to the shortstop is that the ball has to get put in play. That can usually only happen when the pitcher puts the ball in the strike zone, or somewhere near it, for the most part.

The TinCaps pitching staff had the opposite strategy. They would walk the next FOUR Captains, albeit one was intentional, and all of a sudden we have a 2-2 game with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Remember, there is still just one hit for the Captains to this point. Jorma Rodriguez would double the team hit total on the last pitch of the game when he singled home Todd Isaacs Jr. to give the Captains the 3-2 win.

What a wacky half inning.

The Wisconsin Timber Ratters and the Beloit Snappers were the first two clubs in the Midwest League to test out the new “extra inning second base runner” rule. Their game went to extras tied at two a piece. Both clubs added a run in the 10th.

Wisconsin struck in the top half of the 10th when Tristen Lutz sacrificed Trever Morrison to third and Morrison eventually scored on a balk call… only in Minor League baseball, baby. The Snappers imitated the Rattlers when they sacrificed Jake Lumley to third and he scored on a wild pitch to tie it up at three. You read that correctly, the two runs scored in the 10th came on a balk and a wild pitch… only in Minor League baseball, baby. Have I used that line yet?

Both clubs stuck with the bunt method in the 11th. It didn’t work too well for the Rattlers in the top half of the frame. Pat McInerney started the inning on second but was tagged out after finding himself in a pickle… see what I did there? Then one Skyler Weber bunt for the Snappers and a throwing error in the bottom of the 11th was all she wrote as the home team took down Wisconsin 4-3.

What a wacky couple of extra innings.

Oh yeah, and Ronald Hernandez drove in the winning run with an RBI single to give the Bowling Green Hot Rods a 5-4 Opening Day win over the Dayton Dragons.

That one is about as normal as a walk-off can get, it’s still exciting though.

Jake Berry
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Jake Berry

Contributing Writer at Legends On Deck®
Jake resides in Carrollton, GA and loves everything baseball. He is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan and enjoys traveling to watch their Minor League teams. He graduated from the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor's Degree in Sport Management. Jake is also a certified personal trainer and has a passion for fitness and weight lifting. You can find his personal site at berrysbaseball.com

You can also reach out to Jake at jberry@legendsondeck.com
Jake Berry
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