Curve manufacture walk-off victory
Following a lengthy rain delay, Altoona rallied in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Akron RubberDucks, 2-1, in front of a crowd of 3,508 at PNG Field on Friday night.
With their backs against the wall, down 1-0, the Curve delivered one of their best performances of the season. Grant Koch worked a walk, and Jared Triolo lined a triple into the gap to tie the game. Andres Alvarez walked to put runners on the corners, and Blake Sabol ended the game with a walk-off sacrifice fly to deep center, sending home happy what remained of the crowd.
The game started on time, but with threatening clouds overhead, it was not long before the tarp came out. The light drizzle proved problematic by the bottom of the second, as Akron starter Gavin Williams called on the grounds crew to dry out the mound. Despite a half dozen workers’ best efforts, the game was delayed for nearly an hour and a half, resuming play at 7:45.
Both starters were pulled due to the long delay. Randy Labaut came in for Akron, and Altoona brought in Jeffrey Passantino. The two middle relievers delivered scoreless outings; Labaut continued Akron’s combined no-hit bid, while Passantino allowed one hit over four innings, his longest outing this season.
Curve first baseman Aaron Shackelford shut down a potential rally in the fifth, twirling an unassisted double play on a ground ball and tagging out the runner.
Sabol looped a line drive into right field for Altoona’s first hit of the game in the bottom of the seventh but was stranded on second to continue the scoreless duel.
“I didn’t think they were going to be able to go the whole day without giving up one,” Sabol said. “I got two strikes on me that at-bat, luckily he left the breaking pitch up, and I was able to stay on top of it enough to get it in the outfield and get on base.”
Akron pushed across the first run of the game in the top of the ninth on a disastrous play for Altoona. After Brayan Rocchio singled, Bryan Lavastida dribbled a ball through the shift, seemingly putting runners on the corners. But Curve center fielder Connor Scott slipped on the grass throwing the ball in, allowing Rocchio to score.
Ducks on the pond
After being shut out all night, Altoona did not waste its first chance with multiple runners on base in the ninth.
Sabol was surprised that Akron did not intentionally walk him to put forceouts in play at every base, but said he was “happy that they pitched to me.”
“(Triolo) is super fast…I knew right away that he was going to be able to score,” he said.
Since Thursday’s game was rained out, Altoona will play a twin bill against Akron tomorrow. Although the Curve have endured miserable weather in the last few days and are battling through the dog days of summer, Sabol said that the team has never lost sight of its end goal.
“We’re all lucky that this is our job,” he said. “We’re just trying to make it up to the big leagues. Knowing that that’s one phone call away keeps us focused and keeps us excited.”
The first 1,000 fans to arrive at Peoples Natural Gas Field received a vintage-style Curve bobblehead, courtesy of Nuts For You.