Silver Hawks ride rookie arms to playoff sweep of Loons
Braden Shipley threw seven dominant innings and right fielder Socrates Brito launched a key two-run homer as the South Bend Silver Hawks defeated the Great Lakes Loons 5-1. The win inaugurated the newly rechristened Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium and resulted in a sweep for the Hawks. South Bend advances to the second round of the playoffs to take on the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Class-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Shipley's strong start followed six innings of shutout ball from fellow 2013 first-round pick Aaron Blair on Wednesday night in South Bend's 3-0 victory at Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan.
South Bend, the Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, took an early lead in the game and never looked back. Shortstop Andrew Velazquez led off the bottom of the first with a line drive single up the middle, nearly hitting Great Lakes starting pitcher Jonathan Martinez (L, 0-1) in the process. Right fielder Socrates Brito walked to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Third baseman Brandon Drury followed with a routine ground ball to short that appeared to be a perfect double play opportunity. Loons shortstop Brandon Trinkwon fielded the ball cleanly and flipped it to Leo Rodriguez at second base for the force out. Brito came in hard with an aggressive take out slide, which paid off as Rodriguez fired wide of first while being upended by Brito. The ball got past the Loons' first baseman and Velazquez scored the first run of the game for the Hawks.
Great Lakes, the Class-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, tied the game up at 1-1 in the top of the third inning against Shipley (W, 1-0). Rodriguez led off the inning with an infield single to second base. Center fielder Robbie Garvey bunted back to the pitcher for a sacrifice that advanced Rodriguez to second. Garvey ended up reaching first on the play as Shipley was unable to field the ball cleanly. Right fielder Jeremy Rathjen also attempted a sacrifice bunt. Shipley fielded this one cleanly but his throw pulled Drury off the bag and the bases were loaded with no outs. Designated hitter Aaron Miller tied the game by hitting into a forceout at second base that allowed Rodriguez to score. Shipley worked out of further trouble by inducing first baseman Tyler Ogle to hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The Silver Hawks wrested the lead right back with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Second basemen Fidel Pena led off with a walk. Left fielder Mike Lang followed with a perfectly executed hit and run single through the vacated second base hole that advanced Pena all the way around to third. Martinez struck out the next hitter to bring catcher Michael Perez to the plate. Perez hit a ground ball to first that deflected off the first baseman's glove. There was still time for the Great Lakes second baseman to pick up the ricochet and retire Perez at first base but Pena scored on the play to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
The Silver Hawks extended their lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Velazquez ignited the rally again by leading off with a single to center. Brito, whose only regular season homeruns came on opening day and in the last game of the season, launched a 1-2 fastball over the right-center field wall for a two-run homer and a 4-1 Hawks lead.
Martinez's night ended after five ineffective innings as he allowed four earned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out seven. Luis Meza came on in relief for the Loons to pitch the sixth. Lang greeted Meza with a ringing double down the left field line. Designated hitter Roidany Aguila followed with a bullet single to left that advanced Lang to third. Perez then picked up his second RBI groundout of the night as his bouncer to second plated Lang for a 5-1 Hawks lead.
The Loons were simply unable to get anything going offensively against Shipley in the game. He surrendered just the one unearned run over seven sterling innings. The Loons managed just five baserunners on two hits and three walks against the #15 pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Shipley and Aaron Blair, the #36 overall pick in this year's draft, combined to hold the Loons to one unearned run in thirteen innings while allowing just six hits and striking out nine as the two starting pitchers in the series sweep.
Rob Rogers relieved Meza in the seventh inning and kept the Hawks offense at bay over two innings of work. He managed to hold the deficit at four runs to give the Loons a chance to come back against the South Bend bullpen. Thomas Brendel entered the game in the top of the eighth in relief of Shipley. He allowed the first two Loons to reach base, but settled down after a visit by Hawks' pitching coach Wellington Cepeda. Following the visit, Brendel got Rathjen to hit into a 6-3 double play for the first two outs of the eighth. 2013 Midwest League Coach of the Year Mark Haley then went to the bullpen for the lefty, Daniel Gibson. Gibson retired Miller on a foul pop to third to end the eighth with the lead intact.
Enrique Burgos entered the game in the ninth to close it out for the Hawks. Burgos walked pinch hitter James Baldwin to lead off the inning. Baldwin stole second and Burgos recorded the first out of the inning as Shines struck out looking. Baldwin was then thrown out stealing third base despite the four-run deficit. The Hawks advanced to the second round of the Midwest League Playoffs as Dixon flew out to right field to end the game and the series.
The Silver Hawks will take on the Fort Wayne TinCaps beginning on Saturday night September 7th. The Hawks went 14-5 against the TinCaps this season. Fort Wayne has not won a game in South Bend since August 1, 2012. However, the TinCaps took the last three games of the season against the Hawks, all in Fort Wayne.Game 1 of the best-of-three series will be in Fort Wayne at Parkview Field with Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) back home at Four Winds Field in South Bend. Blake Perry (8-7, 4.49 ERA) will take the mound for South Bend for Game 1. Game 2 will be at 5:00pm on Sunday, September 8th while Game 3 (if necessary) will begin at 7:00pm on Monday, September 9th. Come on out to Four Winds Field and help the Hawks make their way back to the Midwest League Championship Series for the first time since 2008.