- Bruce Tilman for the Andre Chiefs
The Chiefs were one out away and then one strike away from taking the pivotal Game Three of the ICL’s Championship Series before the Lexington Blue Sox rallied for four runs on Dan Graham’s two out grand slam to win 5-2.
With the seventh inning dramatics, the Blue Sox take a 2-1 lead in the best of five series. They can close out the Chiefs when the teams meet in Lexington on Friday at 8:00 PM.
Blue Sox ace Matt Karis and the Chiefs’ Matt DiCato engaged in an old fashioned pitcher’s duel until Lexington finally broke through for a run in the top of the fifth inning. Tommy Haugh led off with a single and was sacrificed to second on a bunt from Tom McKenna. DiCato struck out Ross Curley for the second out of the inning before Jeff Vigurs delivered Haugh with the first run of the night when he drilled a double to right-center.
The Chiefs came back to tie it up in the bottom of the fifth when Paul Yanakopoulos led off with a gap double to left-center and was sacrificed to third by Matt Boleski. Nick Leva then hit an RBI fielder’s choice grounder into the shortstop hole to Steve Gath. Gath threw Leva out at first as Yanakopuoulos read the play perfectly and slid across the plate with the tying run.
The Chiefs came up with a little two out magic in the bottom of the sixth to take a 2-1 lead. After Deshler and Portes both grounded out, Peter Copa laced a double to right-center and Rob Machado came on to run for him. Mike Andre then gave the Chiefs the lead when he doubled to left to easily score Machado. Chad Conner pinch ran for Andre as Nate Witkowski came to the plate. Witkowski hit a little chopper in front of the mound that Karis fielded and threw a bit high to first. Conner never stopped running but was gunned out on a close play at the plate, as Vigurs applied the tag to end the inning.
The seventh inning began harmlessly enough as Haugh flew out to Tony Deshler in left and DiCato struck out McKenna swinging. The trouble began when DiCato hit Curley with the first pitch of his at bat. Vigurs was next and he a high liner toward third baseman Witkowski. Witkowski leaped and got a glove on the ball preventing it from going into left field. With runners at first and second with two outs, DiCato went to a 2-2 count on Gath when a close pitch was called ball three. Gath drew a walk on the next pitch to load the bases for Graham. Graham swung and missed the first pitch before he sent the next DiCato offering over the right-center field fence for a grand slam to give the Blue Sox a 5-2 lead.
The Chiefs didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the seventh as they tried to make some two out noise of their own. Karis struck out Yanakopoulos to lead off the inning and then got Matt Boleski on a grounder to Gath at shortstop. In ironically similar fashion to the top of the seventh, Karis kept the Chiefs alive when he plunked Leva with an 0-2 pitch. Tony Serino then reached on an infield single and Deshler drilled a single to center to load the bases and bring the winning run to the plate in Juan Portes. Karis got Portes to hit a grounder to McKenna at second to end the game and send the Blue Sox home with the win.
Andre, (10-20, .500) in the playoffs, and Yankopoulos (6-17, .353), led the Chiefs at the plate with a double and single each. Serino, who is 7 for 19, and hitting at a postseason clip of .368, added three singles.
Karis picked up the win despite allowing ten hits. He struck out two, walked one, and hit a batter. DiCato surrendered eight hits, struck out five, walked two, and also hit a batter.
If they Chiefs win Game Four on Friday in Lexington, the deciding Game Five will be played at Maplewood on Sunday night at 8:00 PM.