Durham Bulls

Charlotte Knights hit Durham Bulls with nine-run eighth inning rally to post win

For seven innings Thursday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the International League baseball game played out in line with how the season has gone.

The first-place Durham Bulls were in control. The struggling Charlotte Knights appeared to barely put up a fight.

The eighth inning flipped everything.

The Knights, having seen their first 16 batters of the game retired with ease, put nine consecutive batters on base and all scored in an nine-run uprising that erased a four-run Durham lead. Charlotte added two more ninth-inning runs and posted an 11-7 win before a crowd of 7,821.

“The wheels kind of came off,” Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said.

Over the first seven innings, the Bulls (53-33) built a 4-0 lead over Charlotte (37-48)

Durham starting pitcher Austin Pruitt, down from the Tampa Bay Rays converting from a relief pitcher back into a starter, pitched four perfect innings. He struck out nine and didn’t allow Charlotte batters to hit any fair balls out of the infield.

The Bulls took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on RBI doubles by Willy Adames and Jake Bauers.

Neil Wagner took over for Pruitt in the fifth inning and kept the Bulls’ perfect game going. Johnny Field’s RBI single extended Durham’s lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the inning.

Wagner allowed a one-out single to Jacob May in the sixth inning giving the Knights their first baserunner. When Keon Wong drive in Cade Gotta with a single in the bottom of the seventh, Durham held a 4-0 lead.

In the eighth, the first two Charlotte batters reached off Bulls relief pitcher Danny Farquhar. Diego Castillo replaced Farquhar and endured a pitcher’s nightmare as he allowed five hits and six runs without retiring a batter. Castillo actually struck out Yoan Moncada but the Knights shortstop reached first safely because strike three was a wild pitch.

The next batter, Tyler Saladino, blasted a three-run home run that put the Knights up for good and they kept pouring it on.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC