Members of the Auburn Doubledays stood outside the visiting clubhouse Tuesday night dousing each other in various beverages as the rain began to fall, and flashes of lightning covered Bowman Field.
Not even turning out the stadium lights could dampen the spirits of the Doubledays less than 30 minutes after they won the Pinckney Division championship for the second consecutive year.
With a chance to play spoiler last night, Williamsport came up just short. Auburn scored four runs off Crosscutters closer Geoff Broussard in 1 1/3 innings to come back from a two-run deficit and beat the Cutters, 9-7, in a three-hour affair that started with a 40-minute rain delay.
Crosscutters manager Andy Tracy directs Jiandido Tromp after a wild throw on a double steal Tuesday night at Bowman Field.
Members of the Auburn bullpen sprinted to the pitcher's mound from left field with their arms raised to rally around winning pitcher Travis Henke, who recorded the final three outs in the ninth inning.
"Spoiler is a great word, but I don't think of it that way," Cutters manager Andy Tracy said. "I think of it as playing the game hard every night, being a professional about it. You get paid to play the whole season, not just parts of it."
Williamsport third baseman Mitch Walding failed to handle a one-hop rocket in the top of the ninth inning that could have been a potential inning-ending double play, and it not only allowed Auburn to score the go-ahead run, but it allowed Narciso Mesa to hit a sacrifice fly to right field two batters later to give Auburn a 9-7 lead.
It came just one inning after Williamsport closer Geoff Broussard, who came on with two outs and runners on second and third, gave up a two-run single on the first pitch he threw to catcher Spencer Kieboom to tie the game at 7-7. It was just the third blown save of the season for Broussard, who entered with a 1.84 ERA, and it was just his first blown save since Aug. 4 against Connecticut.
With the win, Auburn clinched the Pinckney Division championship over Batavia, which was rained out last night and will play a doubleheader today. It's the second consecutive Pinckney Division title for the Doubledays.
"We didn't want to be second and third with two outs (in the eighth inning), but that's the guy you're going to go to in that situation, and you live and die with your closer," Tracy said. "I think he's got some deception, he's got a good slider, he usually throws strikes, you don't see a lot of good swings off of him. You can't ask for a better guy to come out of the bullpen for us."
Auburn had built a 5-3 lead thanks to a trio of two-out runs against Cutters reliever Andre Kinder in the top of the fourth inning. Reliever Ronald Pena then retired eighth of the first nine batters he faced for the Doubledays after replacing starting pitcher Blake Monar in the fourth inning when Monar left with an injury.
Williamsport finally got to Pena, though, after left fielder Estarlin Martinez dropped a routine fly ball in the seventh inning putting Kevin Quaranto on second base with one out. Gustavo Gonzalez followed with an RBI single to center field and took second on the throw to the plate.
Roman Quinn reached on an infield single to drive Pena from the game, but Jiandido Tromp followed with an RBI single off of Travis Henke to tie the game. "He (Pena) was moving the ball around a little bit. Little sinker, cutter, curveball, change-up," Tracy said. "Once the guys got to see him a little bit, I thought they could make some adjustments and get the ball up a little bit instead of chasing some sinkers down and rolling over it."
Cameron Perkins, who was recently named the Phillies' minor league player of the week, doubled down the left-field line to score Quinn and Tromp and give the Cutters a 7-5 lead. The double was the second of the night for Perkins who is hitting .349 since the start of August. He also has 21 RBIs in that span.
"Anytime you get to the middle of the lineup with chances to score some runs, it's awesome," Tracy said.
Auburn took a 5-3 lead in the top of the fourth inning with a trio of two-out hits off of Williamsport reliever Andre Kinder. The double from Mike McQuillan scored the first run with two outs, Renda added another RBI double down the right-field line when a ball fell in between Perkins, second baseman Gustavo Gonzalez and first baseman Chris Serritella in no-man's land down the line.
Shawn Pleffner, who has a walk-off homer and a ninth-inning, game-tying homer against the Cutters this year, then fisted a ball down the left-field line to score another run and give Auburn a 5-3 lead.
"The kids played hard tonight," Tracy said. "It was a good, solid game. They let us back into it with some errors and we capitalized on it."