BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- Joe Ryan struck out 11 batters over 6.0 shutout innings, Ford Proctor broke a 1-1 tie with a solo homer and Grant Witherspoon hit a two-run triple in a three-run eighth that proved to be the difference in a 4-3 victory over the Burlington Bees to even the series at one win apiece and improve to 18-14. The Hot Rods and Bees finish the series with a 10:35 a.m. first pitch in Wednesday morning’s rubber game.
The Hot Rods struck first off Burlington starter Kyle Tyler in the second inning. Witherspoon doubled to left with one out, then scored with two outs after Tyler fielded a ground ball off the bat of Jake Palomaki, but threw wildly to first, scoring Witherspoon to give the Hot Rods a 1-0 lead.
That lead held as Ryan mowed through the Burlington order. After Ryan retired the first ten batters, he worked around hits in the fourth and fifth to preserve the advantage, then stranded a runner in scoring position in the sixth, finishing his outing with a strikeout of Nonie Williams, his 11th punchout of the night.
In the seventh, Nick Sprengel allow an infield single to Spencer Griffin with one out, then threw an errant pickoff attempt to first that moved Griffin to second. After a strikeout, Alexis Olmeda doubled to right-center, scoring Griffin to tie the game. Sprengel then issued a walk and hit a batter to load the bases, but left the bases loaded to keep the game tied at one apiece.
After a scoreless eighth by Cristofer Ogando, Proctor broke the deadlock by launching a solo homer over the wall in right-center with one out. After Connor Hollis and Kaleo Johnson both singled with two outs, Witherspoon added some key insurance by lining a triple just out of the reach of a diving Williams in center field to score both runners. Witherspoon was thrown out at the plate attempting to turn the play into an inside-the-park home run, but still extended the lead to 4-1.
The extra cushion proved crucial in the ninth as Ogando allowed a two-out single, followed by a two-run home run to D.C. Arendas to cut the lead back to one. However, Ogando induced a ground ball to third from Connor Fitzsimons to end the game, evening the series.
Ryan pitched a season-high 6.0 innings, allowing just two hits and no runs while striking out 11 in a no-decision. Sprengel suffered his second blown save of the season, allowing a run on two hits, while hitting one, walking one, and striking out two. Ogando (2-0) worked the final two innings, allowing two runs on two hits in earning his second win of the season.