Through the first eight games of the 2012 season, the Louisville Bats were lacking a big hit. They finally got one in their home opener Friday night, from Chris Valaika, en route to a 4-2 win over the Columbus Clippers.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth and his team trailing 2-1, Valaika came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. On a 1-2 pitch, Valaika ripped a double down the left field line, scoring two—the second would turn out to be the game winning run.
“I got a slider up in the zone,” Valaika said of the game winning at bat. “I was fortunate enough to put a good swing on it.”
Valaika’s double came after Columbus took the lead in the top of the fifth with two runs off Bats starter Chad Reineke. It was just the Bats’ ninth hit with runners in scoring position on the season.
The Bats extended their slim margin with a run in the sixth, but it could have been much worse. After walking the bases loaded to begin the sixth, Columbus starter Scott Barnes was lifted for Hector Ambriz. Ambriz gave up just one run on a fielder’s choice by Daryl Jones. Louisville failed to score again in the inning.
Louisville’s bullpen, which has been terrific, was stellar once again. Travis Webb, Scott Carroll, and JJ Hoover combined for 3.1 innings of relief work, giving up just two hits and striking out four. Carroll and Hoover combined to retire eight consecutive Columbus hitters to end the game. Webb picked up the win, Carroll a hold, and Hoover the save.
“Our pitching was really great tonight,” said Bats manager David Bell. “They were really the key.”
Reineke went 4.2 innings giving up two runs on seven hits while striking out two. His start marked the third consecutive game Louisville’s starter has not made it through the fifth inning.
The Bats and Clippers hook up again Saturday for game two of the four game series. Louisville will send Andrew Brackman (1-0 1.50 ERA) to the mound. He will be opposed by Chris Seddon (0-0 6.75 ERA).
Photo Credit: Max Sharp