Springfield, MO – OF Mike O’Neill delivered the game-winning, pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Springfield Cardinals to the 2-1 walk-off win against the Arkansas Travelers before 5,350 fans at Hammons Field on Friday night. LF Nick Martini had tied it earlier in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI groundout, before O’Neill’s game-winner.
Cardinals LHP Kyle Hald and Travelers LHP Sean Newcomb battled back and forth with four scoreless innings apiece to start the duel. Hald concluded his outing with a scoreless top of the fourth, finishing with no runs allowed on five hits and one walk, while striking out four.
Newcomb, though, matched Hald with four scoreless innings of his own, before the Travelers (23-19, 59-52) broke through in the top of the fifth against RHP Thomas Lee. After Lee retired the first two outs in quick order, CF Chad Hinshaw kept the inning alive with a walk, before stealing his way to second base. DH Raywilly Gomez then lifted a fly ball to medium-deep right-center, but CF Charlie Tilson lost it in the lights and the ball landed safely for an RBI single, scoring Hinshaw from second for the 1-0 Arkansas lead.
Newcomb kept the Travelers narrow advantage intact through the remainder of his six innings, although Lee countered with a scoreless sixth and two outs in the seventh to keep the Cardinals close. RHP Chris Perry (W, 1-1) retired the final out in the seventh, before tossing scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth to send the game into the bottom of the ninth with the Cardinals only trailing by one run.
Leading off the bottom of the ninth against RHP Danny Reynolds (L, 1-3), 2B Bruce Caldwell was hit by a pitch to reach safely. SS Aledmys Diaz then crushed a fly ball off the very top of the wall in left field, which ended up bouncing back into the field of play for a long double, just missing a home run by inches but advancing Caldwell to third base. LF Nick Martini brought Caldwell home to tie the game with an RBI groundout to second base, also advancing Diaz to third. One out later with Diaz still at third base, OF Mike O’Neill entered the game as a pinch-hitter. O’Neill came through with the game-winner, ripping an RBI single inside the first base line to score Diaz and propel the Cardinals to the 2-1 walk-off victory.