MANCHESTER — It took nine runs, extra innings and a walk-off home run, but the New Hampshire Fisher Cats won a track meet-style game for the first time in almost three weeks.
Andy Burns hit a two-run home run over the center field fence in the bottom of the 10th inning to give New Hampshire a 9-7 win over Trenton in front of 5,158 fans at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium Sunday afternoon.
It was the first time since June 19 that New Hampshire (41-45) won a game in which it allowed more than two runs. Randy Boone (1-3) got the win with two scoreless innings of relief work as the Fisher Cats overcame four errors and a pair of three-run deficits.
“We didn’t play very good defense behind our pitching staff (Sunday) but they threw the ball pretty good. We’ve just got to play better defense to keep the runs down,” said New Hampshire manager Bobby Meacham. “Once again, we got a lot of good efforts out there. (Reliever Richard) Bleier was very good. Boone and (reliever Dustin) Antolin did the job to hold them close so we could come back and win.”
New Hampshire center fielder Dalton Pompey led off the bottom of the 10th with a single to center. Jon Berti laid down a bunt to third base to move Pompey over and Burns stepped in and blasted his ninth homer of the season to win the game.
“It’s an awesome feeling. Any time you get a walk-off hit to help the team win it’s a great feeling,” Burns said. “To get a win to end the series (with Trenton) is great.”
The win over the Thunder (40-49) was the second in as many days and helped the Fisher Cats put some distance between themselves in fourth place in the Eastern Division and fifth-place Trenton.
Up next, the Fisher Cats welcome third-place New Britain with a chance to overtake the Rock Cats thanks to five games in four days. The first two games of the series are tonight as a doubleheader starting at 6:05.
The Fisher Cats have now won four in a row and 11 of their last 12 games, allowing more than two runs just once (a 7-6 loss at Reading) a week ago. The last high-scoring game for both sides won by New Hampshire was June 19, a 7-6 victory over Altoona.
“Our pitching staff has been great. That’s a testament to them,” Burns said. “It definitely helps us on a day-to-day basis knowing they’re going out there throwing a lot of zeroes and (Sunday) was our day to pick them up.”
Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, New Hampshire tied the game on a hit, walk and Trenton error. Jorge Flores singled with one out and moved to second base on a walk to Pompey. Berti hit a grounder to second base that Casey Stevenson couldn’t handle, allowing Flores in with the tying run to set the stage for Burns’ eventual walk-off.
“The character of these guys is showing through in the games we’re playing,” Meacham said. “Whether coming back or being ahead, they just never give up. We got shaken a little bit in May, but June was a good month for us and they started to believe in themselves and play for each other.”
The Fisher Cats led early, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Berti reached on an error, taking second base on an errant throw. Burns singled Berti to third and Mike McDade drove him in when third baseman Rob Segedin’s throw home on a ground ball was too late. Kevin Nolan singled to center field to score Burns for the 2-0 lead.
Trenton tied the game in the top of the second, notching both runs with two outs. Segedin singled to center and scored on a Zach Wilson double off the wall in right-center. Stevenson scored Wilson with a single that Fisher Cats shortstop Nolan got his glove on but could not corral.
The Thunder took a 5-2 lead with three runs in the third. Ben Gamel led off with a single and stole second base, eventually scoring on a Peter O’Brien triple off the left field wall. Tyler Austin singled O’Brien home with a bloop into left and Austin scored to make it 5-2 after Segedin and Stevenson singled.
Burns led off the Fisher Cats home half of the third with a triple, scoring when the throw from left fielder Gamel skipped away from Segedin at third. McDade followed with a home run to left-center and the Thunder lead was down to 5-4.
The game quieted down for three innings before Trenton added to its lead. With Bleier on the mound, Gamel led off the seventh by reaching second base when McDade mishandled a sharp grounder to first. Gary Sanchez singled to score Gamel to push the lead to 6-4. O’Brien then singled, and Bleier was pulled in favor of Antolin.
Antolin got some defensive help when right fielder Michael Crouse made a nice play on a deep drive from the bat of Austin, making the catch near the wall and doubling Sanchez up. But Segedin reached on an infield single to score Sanchez to make it 7-4.
New Hampshire got two back in the seventh on a two-run single to center by Nolan. Burns (fielder’s choice) and McDade (walk) had moved over on a wild pitch and scored on Nolan’s hit to make it 7-6.