The crack of the bat resulted in 73 runs and 99 hits in three games between Colorado Springs and Memphis as they played to the limit in the Pacific Coast League’s American Conference championship series at Security Service Field.
The boom of Memphis left fielder Nick Martini’s body crashing into the wall turned out to be the sound that perhaps saved the series for Memphis and sent the Sky Sox home for the winter.
Martini’s running catch stopped a four-run rally and helped the Redbirds hold off the Sky Sox, 13-10 in the decisive fifth game of the series.
“They say you should go out with a bang,” Memphis first baseman Patrick Wisdom said. “What a catch and what a way to end an emotional series. To end it that way was really special.”
Wisdom highlighted a five-run first inning with his team’s third home run, and Memphis extended its season, which resumes Tuesday with the first of two home games against defending champion El Paso.
Memphis won two of three in Colorado Springs, including an 11-8 win Saturday after trailing by two runs entering the seventh inning that pushed the series to a fifth game. On Friday, the Sky Sox held off the Redbirds, 16-15 on Friday to take a 2-1 lead series lead.
The Sky Sox, who trailed 13-6 heading into their final at-bat, scored all four runs with two outs to pull to within three, and it took a trio of Redbirds relievers and ultimately Martini’s amazing catch on Nick Noonan’s drive with a runner on second base to finally end it.
Nate Orf kept the game and season alive with a run-scoring single to center that scored Johnny Davis, who led off the inning with a single off Miguel Socolovich, Memphis’ fifth pitcher.
Troy Stokes followed with a triple to the left-centerfield gap to make it a 13-8 game, then Tyler Heineman greeted reliever Mark Montgomery with a two-run blast to right. Yadiel Rivera kept it going with a double to left-center, and Noonan nearly got the Sox closer with his shot off Josh Lucas, who earned the save.
“You saw how many pitchers they went through, and they knew damn well that game wasn’t over, just like we did,” Sox manager Rick Sweet said. “That’s the way we played all year, on the road and at home. This has been the most incredible club I’ve ever had as far as competing from first pitch to last pitch from the first game to the last game. I’ve never had a team like this that consistently went out and never quit.”
Colorado Springs cut the deficit to 8-6 after scoring three runs in the sixth. Rivera’s run-scoring double down the left-field line started the rally, and a sacrifice fly by Noonan and fielders-choice groundout from Johnny Davis got the Sox closer.
But in the seventh, Wisdom’s RBI single to left-center field brought home Jacob Wilson, then Wilfredo Tovar hit a two-run home run to give the Redbirds a five-run buffer once again at 11-6. They added two more in the eighth.
“To swing the momentum back in our favor was huge, especially in a playoff game,” Wisdom said. “Every run is crucial. It was big for us to come back and score after they score. It gave our pitching room to breathe and gave our defense room to breathe.”
Mike Mayers earned the win in relief for Memphis. Matt Pearce got the start, pitching into the fifth inning and allowing three runs and seven hits.
Colorado Springs starter Aaron Brooks rebounded after a rough start but still absorbed the loss. The righthander allowed six runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings.
Memphis wasted little time in jumping all over Brooks.
With one out in the first, Aledmys Diaz singled to left and scored on O’Neill’s home run to left-centerfield. Garcia sent the next pitch to nearly the same spot and, after Jacob Wilson drew a walk, Wisdom homered to left-center to make it 5-0.
Colorado Springs chipped away, scoring a run in the first on an Ivan De Jesus sacrifice fly and trimming the Redbirds’ lead to 5-2 in the fourth when De Jesus scored on Heineman’s single to right.
The Redbirds answered with a two-out rally in the fifth. Wilson singled home O’Neill, then Wisdom’s RBI-double to left-center made it 7-2.
In the fifth, Noonan scored on a Pearce wild pitch to keep the Sox close at 7-3, but Memphis answered in its next at-bat after an Aledmys Diaz run-scoring double to left that scored Martini, who was hit by a Tim Dillard pitch with two outs.