RailRiders Force Do-or-die Game 5 In Governors’ Cup
MOOSIC — This was it.
Lose to Durham on Friday, and the RailRiders would be packing up their lockers and booking plans to travel home for the offseason.
Lose to Durham, and despite winning the series opener, the RailRiders would watch the Bulls celebrate a championship for the second straight year.
The RailRiders had a head start on what a Game 5 atmosphere would feel like, and after Gio Urshela’s first-inning swing, they had a leg up on the Bulls.
Urshela’s solo home run gave Ryan Bollinger an early lead to work with, Mike Ford’s three-run blast in the fifth added some breathing room, and the RailRiders forced a do-or-die series finale with a 5-2 win over Durham on Friday night.
Game 5 is today at PNC Field at 4:05 p.m.
“It definitely swings the momentum back to us, I think, a little bit,” said Ford, who drove in four runs. “It comes down to one game. It’s crazy, I think we’ve played like 149 (games) and they don’t count anymore. It’s just one game and we’ll go out (today) and do it and see who wins.”
Scranton native Joe McCarthy went 1 for 3 with a single and run for Durham, sparking a rally in the eighth inning that RailRiders closer Joe Harvey shut down. He was also hit by a pitch.
“That’s one of the advantagtes of going up, 2-1, is we had a game to give,” McCarthy said. “They came out and they, right from the get go, they went out to a lead and we just weren’t able to respond. Game 5 (today) will be a lot of fun.”
Urshela sent a line drive into the RailRiders bullpen with two outs in the first off Durham starter Zach Lee, putting a run on the board for the RailRiders for the first time since the ninth inning in Game 2.
“It’s important to be on the board first,” Urshela said. “Keep the team in the game.”
They got two more base runners in the first against Lee, but Zack Zehner popped out, and then had a second-inning rally killed by an interference call against Fransisco Diaz, when the RailRiders catcher slid into second trying to prevent a double play.
Shane Robinson’s double to start the second kept the pressure on, and after Urshela moved him to third with a groundout, Ford made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly.
“We’ve been hitting the ball well, just right at people,” Ford said. “So, it was big to find a few holes. Two of them were over the fence, which was nice. No one can catch that.”
Ford padded the lead in the fifth after Durham elected to intentionally walk Urshela with a runner on second and one out. He turned on a pitch from reliever Jordan Harrison, and sent it on a line to the seats in right for a 5-0 lead.
It was more than enough support for Bollinger, who took a shutout into the sixth inning, allowing just three hits. The RailRiders southpaw walked one and struck out six, feasting on Durham’s lefty-heavy lineup.
“My gameplan with the lefties is just come in, get the lefties out and do what I can against the righties,” Bollinger said. “Luckily, I was able to do that tonight.”
He gave up just one hit to a lefty: a single by Kean Wong in the third. Otherwise, they went 0 for 10 against him.
“I just think he was doing a good job of in and out, adding and subtracting with his fastball and breaking ball,” said McCarthy, who went 0 for 2 against Bollinger. “He did a good job of keeping guys off-balance and it showed with him going six innings.”
Durham got on the board in the seventh when Jake Cronenworth tripled against Raynel Espinal and scored on Wong’s base hit. McCarthy’s line drive single in the eighth started a string of three straight hits that cut it to 5-2.
Harvey worked out of the two-on, one-out jam in the eighth with a groundout and a fly out. He let up a leadoff single to Nick Solak in the ninth, but any chance of a rally was stunted when Wong popped up a bunt in foul territory for the first out of the inning. Harvey struck out Rob Refsnyder on three pitches, then got Austin Meadows to fly out and end the game.
“I’ve really never been on a team like this, to be honest with you,” Harvey said. “I’ve been hurt most of my career, but with this team, everybody just kind of knows their role, knows their job, tries to really do everything they possibly can.”
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