Durham Bulls

Clippers pull away from Bulls in extra innings

Durham and Columbus were tied at three heading to the 11th inning, and then things got really interesting. In a strange, and long, game, the Clippers outlasted the Bulls, 13-9.

The game, which lasted four hours and eight minutes, featured 10 pitchers. Durham (21-10) had to use two position players, Johnny Fields and Michael McKenry. Knotted at three after four consecutive scoreless innings, Columbus (13-18) exploded for 10 runs in the 11th. With the Bulls short on pitchers, skipper Jared Sandberg went with Fields, who was having an excellent day at the plate, and McKenry. After a scoreless 10th, the Clippers sent 15 batters to the plate in the 11th, with seven getting hits, four drawing walks and Columbus scoring 10 runs.

“They scored their runs off our position players, we scored off their real pitchers,” Sandberg said. “But again, both teams battled, you give both teams credit.”

The early innings was a showcase for a pair of Bulls: Fields and pitcher Jake Faria. Fields got Durham on the board when he hit a solo home run over the fence during his first at-bat. Fields, who is batting .272 this season, then gave the Bulls a 2-0 lead in the second when he scored Kean Wong with a double.

Faria was on fire the first four innings, striking out 11 batters before giving up a three-run home run to former Durham player Richie Shaffer. Faria struck out 13 batters, a season high and the most since he fanned 11 in a 3-0 win over Buffalo last month. With 17 strikeouts, the Bulls have now reached double-digit strikeouts in nine consecutive games.

“He (Faria) just has tremendous stuff,” Sandberg said. “He has the ability to get swings and misses in the strike zone with all three pitches. What he did today was pretty impressive. Unfortunately with those strikeouts the pitch count goes up.”

Down 3-2, Shane Peterson tied the game in the sixth, scoring Patrick Leonard with a single. The Bulls shut the Clippers down, behind strong pitching from Chih-Wei Hu and Andrew Kittredge, and went into the bottom of the ninth with a chance to secure the win.

The second batter, Mike Marjama dropped one through the gap for a single to get things started for Durham. Marjama then showed off the jets as the Bulls got aggressive, stealing second base with two outs. However, it was all for nothing as Jake Hager struck out, sending the game into extra innings.

The first batter Field faced, Daniel Robertson popped out. Field walked Chris Colabello, then struck out Shaffer, battling back after throwing three straight balls. After intentionally walking Bradley Zimmer, Erik Kratz was thrown out at first, giving Field a hit less inning. But Fields or any of his teammates couldn’t get anything going in the bottom of the 10th, sending the game into 11 innings. Fields gave up his first hit, a double to Ronny Rodriguez, and the second, a double to Jordan Smith, put runners on second and third. Erik Gonzalez sealed the win for Columbus with a two-RBI triple, putting the Clippers up 5-3. Daniel Robertson and Bradley Zimmer added insurance runs. McKenry walked Kratz and gave up back-to-back runs to Ronny Rodriguez and Jordan Smith to make it 9-3. The final icing on the cake was a grand slam by Giovanny Urshela.

But the Bulls, to their credit, didn’t roll over, scoring six runs in the 11th, including a grand slam from Leonard.

Durham and Columbus end their series Thursday at the DBAP. First pitch is set for 10:35 AM.

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV