(TRENTON, NJ.) After a rollercoaster 3-3 road trip through Erie and Akron, the Thunder looked to halt a three-game skid when they welcomed in the Portland Sea Dogs for their home opener at Arm & Hammer Park on Thursday night.
Manager Al Pedrique handed the ball to southpaw Miguel Sulbaran, who gave up two earned runs in three innings in the teams season opener against Erie on April 10. The 21-year old Sulbaran cruised through the first five innings; facing just one over the minimum over that span.
Portland starter Luis Diaz matched zeros with Sulbaran through four innings before cracking late in the fifth. With two outs in the frame, Mason Williams laced a fastball into left field before scoring on a well-struck double to left-center by Cito Culver.
After both teams squandered huge scoring opportunities in the sixth inning, the Sea Dogs were finally able to get on the board in the seventh. Leading off the inning, clean-up hitter Keury De La Cruz struck a line drive down the left field line that Mason Williams failed to grab on a diving attempt, allowing the ball to roll all the way into the corner as De La Cruz came around to score on an inside-the-park homer to tie the game.
After a leadoff walk by Jonathan Roof and a single by Mike Miller, Carlos Asuaje slapped a one-out single to right field off of Nick Goody to plate Roof and give Portland a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth inning.
Down to their final strike of the night in the ninth inning, Mason Williams lined a two-out single to right field off of Portland closer Dayan Diaz to score Eric Jagielo and tie the game at two run apiece.
“Mason has been working really hard,” said Pedrique. “It was well-deserved for him because he really has been working both offensively and defensively.”
The game would go into extra innings and with two outs in the tenth, Aaron Judge stepped to the plate and blasted a majestic home run that cleared the left field wall and soared into the deep Trenton night to give the Thunder a 3-2 walk-off victory.
“I got that one,” said Judge. “It was one of those where you hit and it doesn’t even feel like it touched the bat, so I knew. I was just lucky to be in that station after some quality at-bats by Jagielo and Williams to tie the game and allow me to be in that situation.”
Judge added, “It’s always a team effort; our pitching staff held a good Seadogs team to jut two runs, which was huge.”
The homer by Judge effectively snapped a streak of three consecutive one run losses for the Thunder. Pedrique was glad to see his team continue to fight and pull one out in dramatic fashion.
“It was good to win one like that, especially in our home opener,” Pedrique said. “It was nice to see a big crowd like that supporting the team.”