The top of the ninth inning did not go, initially, the way reliever Andrew Vernon had planned.
Nursing a one-run lead, the pitcher from Raleigh, North Carolina, needed three outs to give the Brewers their third consecutive win of the season.
A leadoff double by Max Dutto, and all of a sudden the Voyagers threatened to spoil his outing.
He bounced back, striking out the next three men he faced, though, to give the Brewers an 8-7 win on Wednesday at Kindrick Legion Field in front of 861 fans.
“I kind of put myself in a rough count, getting behind 3-0,” Vernon said. “I had to come back. I don’t really like putting people on for free. I got back one strike and then I left a pitch that was hittable and he hit a double. After that I knew I had to go to work and I had to be more precise and really attack the zone and get ahead early -- and knew throwing my secondary stuff was going to be a big thing from that point on.”
All he had to do: Take down the Voyagers' most prolific hitters of the evening.
Before facing Hanleth Otano, who finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs, and Richardo Mota, who went 3 for 5 for one RBI, and Tyler Frost, who went 2 for 5 and hit a two-RBI homer earlier, Vernon collected himself. The man who was appearing in just his second rookie league game, representing North Carolina Central as it’s only draft pick ever, looked more poised in a high-pressure situation.
He took a deep breath and went to work.
“I didn’t try to do too much,” Vernon said. “I felt like on the first batter I was pressing too much. Trying to get a strikeout and trying to overpower him when that’s not really my game. I calmed down and was like, ‘I’m going to go ahead and attack and get ahead.’ If I get ahead I can get guys out. That’s the name of the game. You don’t want to get behind. You don’t want to get into a hitter’s count. So I just started attacking a little more and refocusing on where I wanted to throw the ball.”
Karsen Lindell (0-0) made his second start of the season on the mound for the Brewers. He had come in in relief against the Voyagers in the second game of the season. Lindell had a mixed outing, giving up six hits, four earned runs on four walks and six strikeouts through four innings.
The Brewers gave Lindell a nice cushion to work with early on.
Great Falls; Kyle Van Ruden also saw his second start on the mound and had troubles early on. After a strikeout, Van Ruden surrendered a single to Chad McClanahan when he hit a grounder to center field. Dallas Carroll reached on a fielder’s choice, as third baseman Justin Yurchak attempted to tag McClanahan on his way to third and then turn a double play to first. Instead, he got neither.
A walk of Payton Henry had the bases loaded in the bottom of the first.
Van Ruden walked Gabriel Garcia with a 4-1 count, giving up the first run of the game.
Then, Jay Feliciano hit a single to bring in another run.
And Zach Clark wiped the bases in the next series, blasting a grand slam over the center field wall and pushing the Brewers' lead 6-0, the ball flying an estimated 405 feet.
The Voyagers got their offense going when Helena's Nicolas Pierre made a charge toward a blooper single from Justin Yurchak, sliding into the grass as he attempted to make a catch.He injured his hand while doing so, and Yeraldy Martinez came into the game and took the field in right, while Feliciano moved to left.
Otano brought in a run when he hit into a fielder’s choice after Lindell walked two and gave up a hit. Richardo Moto followed it up with another hit, blasting a line drive to right field to score the Voyagers second run.
Frost, who had hit well against the Voyagers in their first four-game series, knocked a ball to center field to load the bases up in the inning.
Lindell fanned Cooper and then got Dedelow to pop out get out of the second inning.
The sides traded clean innings before the Voyagers struck again.
Frost hit his first home run as a professional in the fourth to score two runs, bringing the Voyagers within two.
Robbie Hitt of Quinnipiac made his professional debut in the fifth inning, replacing Lindell. Hitt, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound righty, started well, but then walked Max Dutto before a critical error. Hitt dealt Otano the right pitch, and Otano went over the left field fence with it, striking a two-score home run to tie the game at 6.
Dedelow had a top highlight in the game, closing on an arcing blooper to right field. He laid out, grasped it and slid on his chest to record the impressive out.
In the sixth inning, the Brewers swapped Alec Bettinger in, and he didn’t fare much better, though he came away with the win. He went 1 and 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and one earned run while walking one and striking out one.
Villa hit an RBI ground out to give the Voyagers a 7-6 lead.
Parker Rigler came out of the bullpen in the sixth inning, supplanting Von Ruden, who went five innings, surrending six earned runs while giving up three hits, two walks and four strikeouts.
Henry got on base with a double to right center field, and then a passed ball allowed Henry to reach third. Garcia hit into a fielder’s choice to score Henry.
Clark kept the offense going, doubling off the left field wall. He finished 2 for 4 to bring in four RBIs with his grand slam. Franly Mallen rewarded Clark, chopping a single to center field and giving Clark enough daylight to bolt for home.
After five scoreless innings and a blown lead, the Brewers were back on top, 8-7.
In the eighth inning the Voyagers went to Will Kincanon.
Pinero, who seems to incite roars from the Kindrick Legion faithful at least once a game, showed off his defensive prowess again on Wednesday. Pinero slid, snagged a hard hit grounder and gunned a ball to first base to record the out in eighth inning.
Then, Vernon capped off his save, ending the night pitching 2 and 2/3 innings to give up one hit while striking out six and walking none.
“You can just tell the atmosphere right now; we’re just happy,” Vernon said. “Everybody is excited to come to the ball park. When we win, it’s fun, man, especially after the game. We want to keep that going.”