(photo credit: AP)
Gezer- For the second straight night, the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox were down in the seventh inning and for the second night in a row Jason Rees tied the game with one swing. This time the victim was the Petach Tikva Pioneers, who eventually lost the game 5-4 in a home run derby.
The Pioneers took the lead early off a 2-run double from Apel Ulatas and a double from designated hitter Ryan Crotin, who went 3-4 to raise his average to .529. Ryan Butkowsky also pitched seven strong innings, striking out six and allowing just two earned runs.
But after Rafael Bergstrom entered the game in the third inning and kept the Pioneers in check by striking out eight batters, the game seemed to take a turn. Rees' 2-run shot in the bottom of the seventh made it 4-4 and forced a home run derby to break the tie.
In the first round, Beit Shemesh got a home run each from Lopez and Scott Jarmakowicz to take a 2-0 lead going into the final hitter, but Petach Tikva slugger Reynaldo Cruz hit two out to extend the match into a second round, where only one hiter for each team would have six swings to hit the balls out of the park. Cruz managed one home run, and the crowd went wild when Lopez's second longball of the round sealed the victory.
For Lopez, it was a satisfying feeling: "I don't know what to think, it was one of the best feeling of my life." Lopez said describing his home runs. "I like the traditional way (extra innings), but this way is fun."
Blue Sox manager Ron Blomberg was happy with the result, but he thought that Ptach Tikva deserved a better fate: "I've never seen this before, but I would've liked extra innings." Blomber said. "They played so well and this (home run derby) is a hard way for them to lose. I look at this as a tie. Both teams played 120%, and they don't have as many home run hitters. I feel bad for them."
The night's other game at Yarkon Field was much more of a laugher as the Tel Aviv Lightning pummeled the Ra'anana Express 16-1.
Except for one, all starting position players for the Lightning had at least one hit on the night. Shortstop Raul Franco went 3-5, scoring three runs and knocking in two runners.
Franco hit an RBI triple in the sixth inning to extend the Tel Aviv lead. First baseman Stuart Brito did his part, slugging a 3-run homer in the 7th inning to raise his batting average to .391.
The Lightning's Australian right-hander Adam Crabb allowed only five hits and one run in six innings of work to improve to 2-0 on the season.
(Shlomo Sprung contributed to this report)