Hot Rods clinch playoff berth with doubleheader sweep

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The Bowling Green Hot Rods will have an opportunity to defend their Midwest League Championship as they clinched their fourth-straight playoff berth with a doubleheader sweep of the South Bend Cubs, winning 4-3 and 7-2 on Monday night. The Hot Rods improved to 78-55, 39-24 in the second half ahead of Tuesday’s series finale, which will take have a 6:35 p.m. first pitch at Bowling Green Ballpark.

In the first inning of game one, the Hot Rods got off to a hot start against South Bend starter Carlos Vega. Bowling Green loaded the bases with no outs on two walks sandwiched around a double by Nick Schnell. With one out, Jordan Qsar drew a bases-loaded walk to bring home the first run. Seaver Whalen then was hit by a pitch, driving in another tally, followed by a sacrifice fly from Chris Betts, giving the Hot Rods a 3-0 lead.

In the fourth, South Bend tied it up against Trageton. The Cubs strung together five hits in the frame, with a solo homer by Nelson Velazquez knotting the score up at three apiece.

The score remained tied into the bottom of the fifth. Against reliever Fauris Guerrero, Grant Witherspoon led off with a walk, then stole second with one out. With two outs, Brandon Hughes entered the game to face Betts, who promptly lined an RBI single to right, giving the Hot Rods a 4-3 lead.

Trageton struck out the first two batters of the sixth before giving way to Joel Peguero after a two-out walk. Peguero, though, set down all four batters he faced, nailing down a 4-3 win to open the twinbill.

Trageton (5-0) went 5.2 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, while walking one and striking out three and earning the win. Peguero went 1.1 innings, setting down all four batters he faced, while striking out two and earning his 14th save.

In game two, it was South Bends turn to take a first-inning lead. After Shane Baz recorded the first out, a single and a walk put two men on. Nelson Maldonado then reached on an error by Jonathan Aranda, which scored Fidel Mejia to give South Bend the early 1-0 lead. Baz could not escape the inning, though, as Nick Padilla came into the game with the bases loaded and two outs, finishing the inning with no further damage.

In the third, Bowling Green struck against Cubs starter Faustino Carrera. After a one-out single by Ford Proctor, Osmy Gregorio launched a two-run homer into the right-field bullpen, putting the Hot Rods up 2-1.

Nathan Witt entered the game for Padilla in the fifth inning and worked around a walk and single to throw a scoreless frame. In the bottom of the inning, the Hot Rods put a pair of runners on with two outs against Carrera. Aranda then hit a grounder to short, but Andrew Weber threw wildly to first, allowing Proctor to score, giving the Hot Rods a 3-1 advantage.

After another scoreless inning by Witt, the Hot Rods opened the flood gates in the sixth. After three infield singles loaded the bases with no outs, Roberto Alvarez singled home two runs, which was followed by a Tony Pena RBI single. A fielder’s choice by Aranda brought home another run, giving the Hot Rods a 7-1 lead.

Witt went back out for the seventh and allowed a two-out run, but he induced a groundout to third that clinched the doubleheader sweep, as well as a return trip to the postseason for the Hot Rods with a 7-2 victory.

Baz recorded just two outs, allowing an unearned run on one hit, while walking two in a no-decision. Padilla (7-2) threw 3.1 scoreless innings in relief, walking one while striking out seven without allowing a hit, earning the win. Witt threw the final 3.0 innings, allowing a run on four hits, while walking one and striking out three.