Alaska Goldpanners Walk-Off 117th Midnight Sun Game
Brock Rudy collects four hits including RBI single in the 10th
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Goldpanners having an exciting night at Growden Park on the summer solstice would not be unordinary. It’s almost expected, but fans were also treated to an inning of free baseball last night in the 117th Midnight Sun Game.
The opponent this season was the San Diego Waves. This would mark the sixth time the Waves have had a Midnight Sun appearance. Alaska held the 3-2 series record, but were looking to avenge the previous Midnight Sun Game against the Waves which was a 4-2 loss back in 2017.
The Panners caught a break from the start, thanks to an error by the Waves third baseman. The Panners were able to send five runners across home plate in the bottom of the first inning from five hits and the error.
San Diego would get a lone run back in the second, but Alaska was quick to respond in the third with two more off a Rafael Flores RBI double and Brock Kleszcz sacrifice fly to push the lead to 7-1.
The only scoreless full-inning came in the fourth, and the Waves and Goldpanners each added a run in the fifth inning. Alaska getting their run courtesy of another San Diego infield error.
It was 8-2 heading into the sixth when suddenly, the Goldpanners weren’t producing runs, and the Waves bats came alive. San Diego cut down the Panners six-run lead to four in the sixth on a 2-RBI single from Quincy Scott.
Alaska still leading 8-4, the Waves would score one in both the seventh and eighth innings cutting the Panners lead in half. With a one-run lead, Alaska tasked Matt Pinal to close the game, but Pinal would struggle allowing three runs to score on four hits, giving San Diego their first lead of the game, 8-9, before getting the game to the bottom of the ninth.
Needing one run to tie, or two to win. Brock Rudy struck out to start the inning. In the next at bat, Rafael Flores hit a liner up the middle. North Pole’s, Alex Garcia, came in to pinch run, and would steal second base during the substitution. Matt Pinal flied out to left for the second out of the inning. Brock Kleszcz came through though with a single. With the tying run on third and winning run on first, Tate Shimao hit one hard to second base that the Waves fielder couldn’t play cleanly. Garcia scored from third, and the Panners turned another San Diego error into a run, this time tying the game at nines. The ninth would end on a Marty Munoz strikeout.
To extra-innings the Midnight Sun Game went, and manager, Mark Lindsay, sent Matt Pinal back onto the mound to pitch another inning after giving up three runs and blowing the save in the ninth.
“I didn’t want to take him out because he came in from first base,” said Lindsay. “You would have to kill the designated hitter. So, basically every pitcher that would come in moving forward would have to hit...”
The decision payed off for Alaska as Pinal retired the side on two groundouts and a fly out.
In the bottom of the tenth, Alaska had the top of their batting order due up, and Cayden Clark led off the inning with a single. Two pitches later, Griffin Harrison took a pitch to the helmet, putting runners on first and second with nobody out.
While the Waves were in the middle of a mound visit, Mark Lindsay gathered Dalton Sloniger (hitter) and the baserunners to discuss the plan moving forward with no one out. Sloniger took the first three pitches for balls, but in the 3-0 count, failed to lay down a bunt. With the count full, Sloniger was sent to the bench via the strikeout.
One down in the inning, and Brock Rudy, who already had three hits on the night, stepped into the batters box.
“I tried a simple approach,” recalled Rudy. I tried to take the ball the other way, and I got a pitch I could do that on and didn’t miss it.”
Rudy hit a ball through the infield, and Cayden Clark would come around to score as the winning run, sending the Goldpanners on a walk-off win in the Midnight Sun Game.
“Yeah it was crazy, said Rudy. “It’s a different environment. Time’s a little different out here in Alaska but it was a great experience. Playing super late is always fun, you know being a kid again, you know we all all love to play so I’m just happy to be out there.”
Rudy collected his fourth hit and third run batted in for the night, the best hitter for the Goldpanners last night. Matt Pinal will go down in the record books as the winning pitcher for the 117th Midnight Sun Game throwing two innings, giving up three earned runs, and one strikeout.
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