Sumo wrestles walk-off for Birds in opener

Myrtle Beach, SC - From the Myrtle Beach Pelicans:

MYRTLE BEACH, SC –  With just 12 games left in the regular season, every game is huge for the Pelicans, who began their three-game set with Southern Division rival Salem just a game and a half behind the Red Sox for a playoff berth.

The Salem Red Sox coming in have pretty much had their way with the Birds all season, carrying a 14-3 season record in their previous 17 contests.

However, the Pelicans know that none of that will matter if they can somehow find a way to beat the Red Sox in this series.  The team took a huge step toward accomplishing that feat on Tuesday night as Luis Sumoza lashed a walk-off single to right in the bottom of the ninth to take game one of this crucial series by the score of 3-2.

With Caleb Clay on the mound, a guy who had experienced very little success in the league this season against anybody but Myrtle Beach, the Pelicans were once again flummoxed by Clay for the majority of his six innings.  In fact, Clay struck out a season high six Pelican batters, but would not factor into the decision.

Though Pelican starter Paul Clemens and Clay traded zeroes for the first three innings, the Sox finally broke through against Clemens in the fourth, plating a pair of runs on run-scoring doubles from Tim Federowicz and Drew Hedman.  The Sox tried to add another, but a perfect relay throw from the right field wall to the plate nailed Alex Hassan trying to score, keeping the score at 2-0.

Clay shut out the Birds until the bottom of the sixth inning when Matt Kennelly connected on a Clay offering, launching the ball into the left field bleachers and cutting the Pelican deficit in half at 2-1.

An inning later, the Pelicans once again threatened with Clay out of the ballgame as Sammy Sime singled with one out in the frame against Seth Garrison.  With two outs, however, the rally appeared to have stalled, but Jordan Kreke worked out a walk to set the stage for Luis Sumoza.

Coming into play today, Sumoza was just 2-for-28 with runners in scoring position and two outs on the season, but he laced a Garrison offering into right field to score Sime and tie the game at two apiece. 

While the Pelicans were making their comeback, the bullpen was firing up zeroes left and right.  In fact, from the fifth inning until the ninth, Clemens, Thomas Berryhill, and Jason Lowey (1-0) set down 14 consecutive Sox batters before surrendering a pair of baserunners in the ninth.

Clemens fired his longest outing of the season, hurling six innings of two-run baseball, striking out six and walking three.  A quality start for Clemens, but the righty did not factor into the decision.

The two teams went to the bottom of the ninth all knotted at two, and the game seemed destined for extra innings after William Latimer set down the first two men he faced in the bottom of the ninth.  However, Kreke lined a Latimer offering into the left field corner for a double, leaving it up to Sumoza once again to be the hero. 

Sumoza, for the second time on the night, answered the call, blasting the first pitch he saw from Latimer into the right-center field gap, scoring Kreke and sending the Pelicans pouring out of the dugout to mob Sumoza.  For Sumoza, he doubled his hit total with runners in scoring position and two outs in one game while allowing the Pelicans to gain a game on the Salem Red Sox as the Birds are now just a half-game out of a playoff berth in the Southern Division.

The Pelicans' past two victories here at BB&T Coastal Field have been walk-off victories in the bottom of the ninth after plating two in the ninth to beat Kinston on Saturday.  It was the Birds' eighth walk-off win of the season.

For game two between these heated Southern Division rivals, fans will take part in the final Webkinz Wednesday of the 2010 campaign.  All season long, Wednesdays have been one of the most popular days at BB&T Coastal Field, and the first 500 fans, 12 and under, will receive the Koala Webkinz upon entering the gates.

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