Rojas delivers big hit for Curve

Two of the Curve’s best young prospects hit big solo home runs, the second tying the game in the 11th inning, and Mel Rojas Jr. ended a long night of baseball with the first walk-off hit of his career in the 12th inning Wednesday night.

“It felt really good, especially after we battled for 12 innings,” Rojas said with a big smile in the clubhouse after the game.

Rojas delivered a broken-bat, bouncing single to left with two outs in the 12th to score Alex Dickerson from second base for a 6-5 win before 3,549 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The game lasted 4 hours, 8 minutes and didn’t end until after 11 p.m. on a chilly night in Lakemont.

The Curve had lost eight of their past 10 games but came through with some clutch hits to claim victory Wednesday.

Gregory Polanco ripped a solo homer in the seventh inning for a 4-3 lead, and Altoona entered the ninth trying to hold on and win by that slim margin.

Portland, though, tied the game at 4-4 in the ninth off reliever Zack Thornton. Ryan Dent led off the inning with a double and took third on a bunt that turned into a hit by Derrick Gibson. Thornton nearly escaped the jam, striking out the next two hitters, but J.C. Linares singled to left to bring home the tying run.

The Sea Dogs grabbed a 5-4 lead in the 11th as Derrick Gibson led off with a single and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Deven Marrero.

In the bottom of the 11th, Alen Hanson saved the Curve from defeat by belting his first Double-A home run, a towering shot to left. Hanson, a promising shortstop prospect who joined the club July 30, came into that at-bat hitting just .180.

Dickerson, who has been red hot for 2 months, collected his third hit of the night to open the 12th with an infield single to shortstop. Dickerson went 3-for-6 to raise his average to .299.

Dickerson took second base on a groundout by Jarek Cunningham, bringing up Rojas with two outs. Rojas stepped into the hero role with the bouncing single to left that easily scored Dickerson.

Rojas fought off an inside slider and, despite breaking his bat, muscled the grounder into left field to bring home the winning run.

“It definitely is [special], especially to be my first walk-off hit,” Rojas said.

Jason Townsend (5-3) won in relief for Altoona, while Eric Niesen (0-1) took the loss.

SUBHD: Game recap

Key player: OF Mel Rojas Jr. made the most of his one hit as he delivered a walk-off single in the 12th inning.

Key play: Rojas’ single won the game, and SS Alen Hanson kept the Curve’s hopes alive with a tying solo homer in the 11th inning.

Key stat: The teams combined for 34 hits, 19 by Portland and 15 by Altoona, and five different players had three hits.

SUBHD: How they scored

Top 3rd: Dent singled, scored on Marrero sacrifice fly (0-1).

Bottom 3rd: Rojas Jr. walked, scored on Gibson error (1-1); Tejeda singled, scored on Polanco single (2-1).

Bottom 5th: Polanco reached on fielder’s choice, scored on Dickerson double (3-1).

Top 7th: Bermudez singled, scored on Thornton wild pitch (3-2); Dent doubled, scored on Marrero single (3-3).

Bottom 7th: Polanco solo homer (4-3).

Top 9th: Dent doubled, scored on Linares single (4-4).

Top 11th: Gibson singled, scored on Marrero sacrifice fly (4-5).

Bottom 11th: Hanson solo homer (5-5).

Bottom 12th: Dickerson singled, scored on Rojas Jr. single (6-5).