Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- Wander Franco’s walk-off single capped off a back-and-forth 7-6 victory in 10 innings for the Bowling Green Hot Rods in the series opener against the West Michigan Whitecaps. The Hot Rods will return to action in game two of the series on Saturday night, with the first pitch at 6:35 p.m.
West Michigan took the lead in the first against Hot Rods starter Easton McGee. With one out, Wenceel Perez legged out a double to right-center, just beating the throw to second from Michael Smith. Chris Proctor followed with a ground ball to second that Kevin Santiago fielded cleanly, but threw wild to first, scoring Perez to give the Whitecaps had a 1-0 lead. The score remained the same into the fourth, when Ulrich Bojarski lined a one-out double to right-center. Two batters later, Hector Martinez deposited a pitch from McGee over the right-field wall for a two-run homer, which gave West Michigan a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the frame, though, Bowling Green responded against West Michigan starter Hugh Smith. After Michael Smith reached on an error to begin the inning, Wander Franco walked and Kaleo Johnson was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with nobody out. Chris Betts then lined a single to center, scoring two runs, though Johnson was tagged out between second and third. Following a groundout that moved Betts to third, Hugh Smith uncorked a wild pitch, bringing home Betts to tie the game at three apiece.
The Whitecaps regained the lead against McGee in the sixth. Perez doubled down the right field line on McGee’s first pitch of the inning, then advanced on Chris Proctor’s groundout. Bojarski followed than by launching a 1-0 pitch into the left-field bullpen for a two-run homer, giving West Michigan a 5-3 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, though, The Hot Rods mounted a rally against new pitcher Yaya Chentouf. Franco led off with a single, stole second, then scored when Johnson doubled down the left field wall, cutting the lead to one run. Betts followed with an RBI single to center, scoring Johnson to tie the game. Ford Proctor then hit a ground ball to short, but the throw to second was mishandled, allowing Betts to go first-to-third. Beau Brundage followed with a slow grounder in front of the plate. Betts attempted to score, but got caught in a rundown. However, he was awarded home on an obstruction call, giving Bowling Green a 6-5 lead.
After 2.0 scoreless innings from Nick Sprengel, Joel Peguero inherited a one-run lead. Hector Martinez led off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Peguero struck out the next two hitters and was a strike away from finishing the game, but Zach Malis lined a 2-2 delivery into right field, scoring Martinez to tie the game. Chentouf then set down the Hot Rods in order to send the game to extra innings.
In the tenth, West Michigan started with Jose King at second and moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt, but Peguero struck out Chris Proctor and induced a ground ball back to the mound from Bojarski to end the frame. In the bottom of the inning, Michael Smith started at second and Franco lined the first pitch from new pitcher Jose Vasquez into left field for a walk-off single.
McGee went 6.0 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits, with one walk and three strikeouts in a no-decision. Sprengel threw 2.0 shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out three. Peguero (1-0) also went 2.0 innings, allowing a run on two hits, while striking out two, earning the win despite a blown save.
Notes: The walk-off win was the second for Bowling Green this season (also April 14 vs. Ft. Wayne)…Betts had his 13th multi-hit game and tenth multi-RBI game…Franco collected his 21st multi-hit game…McGee allowed a season-high five runs and four earned runs…He worked at least 6.0 innings for the third time this season…The Hot Rods are 4-19 when outhit by their opponents… They also are 13-15 when the opponent scores first… Bowling Green is 24-23 in night games…BG is 19-10 at home…The Hot Rods will play the second game of the four-game series against West Michigan on Saturday night, with the first pitch at 6:35 p.m…RHP Shane Baz (2-0, 1.44) will start for Bowling Green, against Whitecaps RHP Riley Thompson (3-3, 2.43)…Fans can catch all the action with Shawn Murnin on Willie 107.9 FM, as well as, with their smart phones via the MiLB First Pitch app and TuneIn Radio app.