The Stripers stayed alive in the International League semi-finals by blowing out Columbus 10-6 on Friday night, forcing a Game Four.
Gwinnett scored all 10 of their runs in back-to-back 5-run innings in the 2nd and the 3rd. The big blow in the 2nd inning was a 3-run shot by catcher John Ryan Murphy, while outfielder Cristian Pache hit a grand slam in the 3rd.
It was more than enough for starter Kyle Wright, who allowed 3 runs (2 earned) over 6 innings. Reliever Grant Dayton struggled, surrendering 3 runs and only getting two outs, but Patrick Weigel came on and locked down the Clippers the rest of the way.
The Gwinnett Stripers' season came to an end last night, losing to Columbus 5-4 in Game 4 of the semi-finals. Columbus will now face Durham for the International League's Governor's Cup.
This was a tight game throughout, and it took a Columbus rally in the 8th for them to pull through. Gwinnett starter Bryse Wilson wasn't his sharpest, but he gutted through 6 innings, allowing only 3 runs despite giving up 10 hits.
After Columbus drew first blood in the 1st inning, Pedro Florimon tied it in the 2nd on a solo home run. The Clippers got the lead back in the 3rd on a lead-off homer by Ka'ai Tom, but Cristian Pache tied it back up in the 4th on an RBI groundout. Wilson got into trouble again the in the bottom of the 4th after a double and a single put Columbus on top again, but he was later able to get Tom to ground into a double play to end the threat.
Gwinnett took a 4-3 lead in the top of the 5th after a Ryan LaMarre walk and a Jack Lopez 2-run shot. Wilson would settle in and keep Columbus off the board in the 5th and 6th. Left-hander Tyler Matzek came on the the 7th and pitched around a double to keep Gwinnett's lead intact.
The 8th inning would turn out to be the critical frame. In the top of the inning, a Sean Kazmar walk, followed by singles from Andres Blanco and Cristian Pache would load the bases with nobody out and give the Stripers a chance to put the game away. The Clippers bullpen however did not break, as they cut down John Ryan Murphy and Luis Marte on strikes and got Drew Waters on an infield pop-up.
In the bottom of the 8th, Matzek got first baseman Bobby Bradley out on strikes (and Bradley got himself tossed out of the game for arguing with the umpire). Matzek allowed a single and a groundout for the 2nd out of the inning, and the Stripers decided to go to right-hander Jason Creasy. Creasy couldn't find the strike zone however, and he walked the next two batters to load the bases, and 9th-place hitter Connor Marabell would deliver the game-winning hit with a 2-run double. Left-hander Caleb Thielbar came on to get the final out of the inning, but the damage was done.
The Stripers threatened with two outs in the 9th on back-to-back singles by Pedro Florimon and Scott Kazmar (though Kazmar's low liner seemed to be caught in the outfield, but was called a trap by officials). It turned out not to matter as Andres Blanco went down swinging to end the game and the Stripers' season.
All-in-all it was a historical season for Gwinnett, who ended the regular season with the best record in the International League and crushed nearly all franchise offensive records in the year the juiced ball came to AAA.