Ironpigs Clinch Division Crown
For the first time since 2014, the RailRiders are not champions of the International League North division.
For the first time ever, Lehigh Valley is.
J.P. Crawford ripped a two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth, bases-loaded single into right field to push Lehigh Valley past the RailRiders, 2-1, at a packed Coca-Cola Park in Allentown on Saturday night, lifting the franchise to its first division crown.
It’s the first division title for a Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A affiliate since the SWB Red Barons went 84-58 in 2006 — their last season in Moosic. The SWB Yankees and RailRiders have combined to win eight division titles since then.
The RailRiders postponed Lehigh Valley’s celebration by one day, beating the IronPigs, 9-1, on Friday night, and had plenty of chances to keep the champagne on ice for another day.
SWB had the bases loaded with nobody out in the second and couldn’t score against rehabbing Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff. Two more base runners in the fifth and Ryan McBroom grounded out.
The RailRiders scored in the seventh, when Devyn Bolasky walked, moved to second on a groundout, third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch. Tyler Wade was stranded at third, however, when Gio Urshela and McBroom struck out.
Mike Ford and Zack Zehner started the eighth with walks and Mark Payton pushed them into scoring position with a bunt, a prime opportunity to take a late lead. Former RailRider Dean Anna robbed them of that chance, however. With the infield playing in, Rey Navarro shot a line drive up the middle. Anna, Lehigh Valley’s second baseman, made a full-extension dive to snag the ball on the fly, then flipped to third to double-up pinch runner Ricky Surum, who was running on contact.
The RailRiders had two more base runners with one out in the ninth, and the bases loaded with two outs, but IronPigs closer Pedro Beato worked out of the jam by getting Surum to ground out. SWB left 12 men on base.
RailRiders starter Erik Swanson tossed six shutout innings, allowed three hits, walked two and struck out five before giving way to Justus Sheffield. Sheffield, making his second appearance in his new reliever role, was saddled with his second blown save when Danny Ortiz tied the game with a homer in the seventh.
After retiring the first two batters of the ninth, Lehigh Valley loaded the bases against George Kontos, then Crawford stroked a 2-2 pitch to right to spark a celebration 11 seasons in the making.
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