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Late Rally Sends RailRiders To Championship Series

September 9, 2018

ALLENTOWN — The crowd gathered inside the Coca-Cola Park visitor’s clubhouse Saturday night might as well have been an audience waiting for a rocker from Jersey to emerge. “Where’s Bruce?” “Get Bruce!” “BRUCEY!” Bruce Caldwell didn’t enter Game 4 of the Governors’ Cup semifinals until the ninth inning, but he helped the RailRiders slam the door on Lehigh Valley. Shane Robinson and Quintin Berry teamed up for a two-out, tying run in the ninth inning, then Caldwell gave the RailRiders more than enough breathing room with a grand slam in the 10th, lifting SWB over Lehigh Valley, 7-2, and punching a ticket to the Governors’ Cup finals for a third straight year. They’ll meet Durham and Scranton native Joe McCarthy in Game 1 on Tuesday PNC Field. First pitch of the best-of-5 series is set for 6:35 p.m. “(That was) a grand slam, right?” Caldwell said, soaked head to toe in celebratory beverages. “First grand slam I’ve ever had. Ever.” Lehigh Valley was an out away from sending the series to a Game 5, capitalizing on another rough night for the RailRiders with runners in scoring position and taking a 2-1 lead into the ninth. Closer Pedro Beato, working for the third straight day, started the inning with a strikeout, but Zack Zehner gave the RailRiders a chance with a soft line drive that just made it over the head of second baseman Jesmuel Valentin. Berry pinch ran for Zehner and Caldwell pinch hit for L.J. Mazzilli, rolling over on the first pitch to get the tying run into scoring position, but also pushing the RailRiders to their last out. With Robinson at the plate, Berry tried to force the issue. “All I needed was for (manager Bobby Mitchell) to let me know it’s OK to steal right there,” Berry said. He had the green light and took off for third. Robinson, who was 1 for 19 in the series at the time, put the ball in play, sending a grounder back up the middle. Shortstop Dean Anna managed to smother it, and got up to throw to first. “When I saw him get up to throw, I kind of put it into second gear and sped up a little bit and I knew I was safe,” Robinson said. “And then I looked back to see if Quintin went all the way home and he did, sure enough.” After making sure Anna was going to throw to first, Berry sped home and tied the game without a throw. RailRiders reliever Raynel Espinal worked a perfect bottom of the ninth, striking out two, to send the game to extras. Mark Payton worked a walk off Ranfi Casimiro to start the inning, and the RailRiders asked Rey Navarro to bunt him up a base. After Navarro failed twice, he lined a single to right-center, sending Payton to third. Gio Urshela walked to load the bases and Ryan McBroom gave the RailRiders a 3-2 lead with a slow groundout to third that didn’t give Zach Green enough time to get Payton at home. Lehigh Valley intentionally walked Mike Ford to load the bases, then brought on lefty Tom Windle to face the lefty-swinging Berry and Caldwell. Berry struck out on four pitches. Caldwell connected, and even on another windy night, he knew it was gone. “I hit it, didn’t even look at the ball, looked at everybody on the bench and just started celebrated.” Mike King, who started the game for SWB and allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings, knew it was gone, too. “I see him hit it, and right off the bat, we all knew it was gone and we go look at him and he is looking in our dugout with like a little smirk on his face,” said King, who allowed seven hits and struck out eight. “And then he throws the bat at our dugout and he just goes.” Joe Harvey worked a perfect ninth, and the RailRiders eliminated their IronRail rivals for a third straight season. “It’s been awesome,” King said. “We’re all in it now. We’re all just having fun. That’s why we’re winning.” Contact the writer: cfoley@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9125; @RailRidersTT on Twitter

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