(Photo Credit: frenchconstruction.com)
In what has been considered a very crazy postseason for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, it was only fitting that the Pacific Coast League Championship was decided on a bizarre play in an 11-inning nail-biter on Saturday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
El Paso had runners at the corners in the top of the 11th inning with no outs and ultimately took the lead on a freaky play when shortstop Jose Rondon popped a bunt in front of the mound where OKC reliever Lisalverto Bonilla tried to make a diving catch. The ball slipped out of his glove, flew past catcher Jack Murphy, allowing El Paso first baseman Patrick Kivlehan to score the go-ahead run and put the Chihuahuas in front, 4-3.
Oklahoma City third baseman Brandon Hicks hit a one-out double in the bottom of the frame and advanced to third on what was nearly a walkoff homer to dead center by right fielder Alex Verdugo. The tying run was stranded at third when shortstop Chris Taylor grounded out to third baseman Nick Noonan, ending the best-of-five championship series in four games.
The victory sealed the first-ever PCL Championship for manager Rod Barajas and the Chihuahuas. It was the first title for a Padres Triple-A affiliate since 1988 and El Paso’s first professional baseball championship since 1994.
OKC threatened to walk off in the eighth when center fielder Will Venable led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by left fielder Alex Hassan. Murphy then flied out to deep center field to advance Venable to third, but pinch hitter Willie Calhoun grounded out to short to end the inning.
The Dodgers had another opportunity in the bottom of the ninth inning when Kyle Farmer and Verdugo hit back-to-back singles with two outs, but Chris Taylor struck out to end the threat and send the game to extras.
In the tenth inning, OKC moved the potential winning run to third base again, when Venable led off with a walk and advanced to second base on another sacrifice bunt by Hassan. After El Paso pitcher Kyle McGrath intentionally walked Murphy, Venable tagged and advanced to third base on a flyout by pinch hitter Drew Maggi. Second baseman Micah Johnson would eventually strike out to end the inning.
Oklahoma City outhit El Paso 14-9 and left 14 runners stranded in the contest, while going 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers did not have a hit with a runner in scoring position after the first inning.
El Paso moves on to face the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in the Triple-A Championship, which begins on Tuesday September 20.
OKC made its third appearance in the PCL Championships Series since joining the league in 1998, and first since 2008.
Three late additions to the Oklahoma City roster — Cody Bellinger, Verdugo and Calhoun — are slated to represent the Dodgers for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, which begins early next month.