By Josh Cook
The Durham Bulls blasted the Louisville Bats on Saturday night to force a decisive fifth game in their playoff series.
Durham bombed Louisville starter Ben Jukich for an 8-1 win in the Governors’ Cup semifinals at Durham Bulls Athletic Park to even the best-of-five series at 2-all and force a win-or-go-home game at 5:05 p.m. Sunday.
Saturday the Bulls scored all eight of their runs in the first four innings against Jukich, the left-hander who had gone 4-0 with a 3.57 since the International League All-Star break. In addition to the eight runs (six of which were earned), Jukich gave up seven hits while walking three and striking three and striking out three in four innings.
Durham scored one run in the first inning when Jukich walked leadoff hitter J.J. Furmaniak. Furmaniak took second when Justin Ruggiano reached on a catcher’s interference on Louisville’s Devin Mesoraco. He scored on Chris Richard’s single.
The Bulls added three more in the third when Furmaniak led off with a triple, then scored on Ruggiano’s one-out single. Ruggiano then stole second, took third on another catcher’s interference call on Mesoraco, then scored on Leslie Anderson’s sacrifice fly. Richard, who walked with one out, took second on the catcher’s interference, scored on Angel Chavez’s single.
Then in the fourth Craig Albernaz led off with a single, then moved to second on Elliot Johnson’s single. Jukich then walked Ruggiano to load the bases before giving up a grand slam to Richard. The Bulls’ first baseman went 2-for-4 with five RBIs.
Louisville’s lone run came on Todd Frazier’s two-out, solo home run in the top of the ninth of Durham reliever Brian Shouse.
The Bats had almost as many hits (six) as they did errors (four). Bulls starter Paul Phillips limited Louisville to only two hits while walking one and striking out six over five innings. Frazier was the only Bat with multiple hits, going 2-for-4.
This is the second straight year that the Bulls and Bats will play a decisive game in their first-round playoff series. Louisville left-hander Jeremy Horst (1-0, 2.51 earned-run average during the regular season) will oppose Bulls’ lefty Bobby Livingston (3-8, 5.31).