With their backs against the wall, the Quad Cities River Bandits staved off elimination in Game Four of the High-A Central Championship Series on Saturday and got a walk-off homer from Logan Porter in the bottom of the ninth to top the Cedar Rapids Kernels 2-1 at Modern Woodmen Park.
Neither team was able to crack into the run column in the first four innings as starters Charlie Neuweiler and Sawyer Gipson-Long combined to strike out 13 batters, with Gipson-Long recording his first seven outs by way of the “k”.
After retiring seven-straight to start his night, Neuweiler loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a Edouard Julien single in the third, but got Aaron Sabato to flyout and avoid damage.
The Kernels got a leadoff walk from Matt Wallner followed by a Seth Gray walk in the top of the fourth. While Neuweiler was able to strikeout Jair Camargo and get DaShawn to lineout, his walk of Gabriel Maciel loaded the bases again and forced Chris Widger to turn to Zack Phillips, who induced a first-pitch grounder off the bat of Daniel Ozoria to keep the game scoreless and help Neuweiler complete a 3.2-inning start.
In the fifth however, the scoreless tie was broken by Sabato, who took a two-out pitch from Phillips over the left field wall to put the Kernels up 1-0. But Quad Cities also managed a two-out rally in the frame and after Will Hancock drew a four-pitch walk off of Gipson-Long, Maikel Garcia clubbed an RBI double to retie the game at 1-1.
With both starters out of the contest by the end of the fifth, it was Phillips who worked 2.2 innings of relief before allowing a pair of one-out singles in the top of the seventh. After intentionally walking Alex Isola to load the bases, Will Klein took the baseball and struck out both Sabato and Wallner to help the Bandits navigate out of a third bases loaded jam.
Osiris German handled the next three innings for the Kernels and struck out five while stranding a lone single from Jake Means.
After striking out the side in the eighth, Klein saw Daniel Ozoria reach on an error in the top of the ninth, but punched out Julien for his sixth strikeout of the game before getting Isola to pop out and Sabato to ground out to send the tie to the bottom of the ninth where Zach Featherstone remained on the hill for the Kernels after recording the final out of the eighth.
Entering the at-bat 0-for-3 on the night, Logan Porter took the lefty’s first pitch for ball one and then launched a slider over the left field berm for a walk-off winner and force Game Five of the series.
Thanks to 2.2 innings of scoreless relief, Klein (1-0) got the win for Quad Cities, while the loss went to Featherstone (0-1) who was on the hook for Porter’s home run.
The River Bandits will have a shot at their 12th championship in franchise history on Sunday and will give the ball to Game One starter, A.J. Block (0-0), while Cody Lawyerson (0-0) will make his postseason debut for Cedar Rapids. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CDT at Modern Woodmen Park.
Tickets are available atriverbandits.com.