Baby Bombers 2018 Playoff Blog: SWB pushed to the brink of elimination
In what was surely a strange situation for both teams, Durham was the home team at PNC Field, as the International League moved the entirety of this series to Moosic, Penn., as a result of Hurricane Florence. And, as they did as the road team in Game 2, the Bulls struck right away, as back-to-back singles by Kean Wong and Rob Refsnyder to open the bottom of the first led to an Austin Meadows RBI groundout and a 1-0 lead.
Durham then stretched it to the final score in the second, with Brandon Snyder's leadoff solo homer making it 2-0 before Jason Coats' one-out single and Jake Cronenworth's subsequent double made the score 3-0 after two.
It remained that way throughout, as SWB starter Mike King retired 12 of the next 13 after Cronenworth's double, but Durham righty Chih-Wei Hu also retired 12 straight after Zack Zehner's one-out double in the second. SWB would threaten after breaking that string, as Mark Payton and Bruce Caldwell roped back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth, but Gio Urshela grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to get Hu out of the inning.
Come the seventh, SWB had one more chance against Hu, but once again, Durham's defense prevailed; Mike Ford singled with one out, and two batters later, Shane Robinson smacked what ended up as a double to left, but left fielder (and NEPA native) Joe McCarthy made a great relay throw to shortstop Cronenworth, who fired to the plate to nab Ford trying to score.
Kyle Bird would go on to retire six of the seven RailRiders he faced in the final two innings, and his strikeout of Ford ended the game pushed Durham to the brink of their second straight Governors' Cup.
On the mound, righty Mike King started for SWB, and was tagged for three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out four. Lefty Philip Diehl made his Triple-A debut in relief of King in the seventh, coming on with two on and two out and issuing a walk before striking out McCarthy, and David Sosebee struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 eighth.
At the plate, the RailRiders had just seven hits and no walks, with Payton (2-for-4) notching the only multi-hit game. Robinson and Zehner each had a double, and the other three hits were singles from Caldwell, Ford, and Wilkin Castillo.
The loss gives Durham a 2-1 lead in the series, meaning SWB must now win two straight "road games" to capture their second Governors' Cup in three years. Game 4 will be a 6:35 p.m. start on Friday, with lefty Ryan Bollinger taking the mound for the RailRiders and righty Zach Lee set to start for the Bulls.