HARTFORD, April 6 – It took an extra inning but the new rules designed to break tie ballgames worked well in Friday night’s Eastern League contest at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
The visiting New Hampshire Fisher Cats scored twice in the top of the 11th inning to beat the Hartford Yard Goats, 4-3 Friday night before 3,537 hearty fans on a raw evening.
Tied at 2-2, the Fisher Cats scored twice in the eleventh inning on a RBI triple by Lourdes Gurriel and a RBI double from Cavan Biggio off Yard Goats reliever Jason Garcia, who took the loss.
Hartford (0-2) cut the lead to one run on Brendan Rodgers’ RBI single to left field. But New Hampshire reliever Conor Fisk got Brian Mundell to ground into a double play and struck out Sam Hilliard to secure the win.
In March, Minor League Baseball changed the rules in extra innings to reduce the length of extra inning games. In extra innings, each inning begins with a runner on second base.
The rule was designed to reduce the number of pitchers used in extra inning contests and reduce the pressure on pitching staffs on following days after extra inning contests. That has led to the use of position players on the mound.
“Player safety has been an area of growing concern for our partners at the major league baseball level,” said Pat O’Connor, president of Minor League Baseball in March. “The impact that lengthy extra innings games has on pitchers, position players and an entire organization was something that needed to be addressed.”
Neither side scored in the tenth inning. With a runner on second base, New Hampshire’s Gunnar Heidt laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved Connor Panas to third base. But Garcia struck out Bo Bichette and Jonathan Davis to get out of the inning.
In the Hartford tenth, three strikeouts from pitcher Zach Jackson sent the game into the eleventh inning.
In the 11th inning, Gurriel’s one-out triple gave the Fisher Cats a 3-2 lead. Biggio’s two-out double extended the lead to two runs. The Yard Goats cut the lead to one on Rodgers’ line drive single to left field that scored Yonathan Daza from second base.
Mundell grounded into a double play and Hilliard struck out to end the game. For the second straight game, Hartford batters struck out 12 times.
The Fisher Cats took a 2-0 lead in the third inning and the Yard Goats finally got on the board this season with a pair of fourth inning home runs from Rodgers with a towering shot into the left field seats and from Hilliard, who send his first Double A home run just below the video board in left field.
Rodgers was 3-for-5 with a double, home run and two RBI for the Yard Goats while Hillard was 2-for-3 with a home run, three stolen bases and one RBI.
Hartford starter Jordan Romano pitched four innings, allowed two hits and struck out six. Reliever Craig Schlitter of Guilford was outstanding in relief, retiring 10 straight batters after yielding a single to the first batter he faced. Matt Pierpont retired the side in order in the ninth inning for the Yard Goats.
For New Hampshire, Biggio had two hits for the second straight night – a pair of doubles.
Game three of the four-game series is Saturday night at Dunkin’ Donuts Park beginning at 6:05 p.m. Righthander pitcher Jesus Tinoco makes his Yard Goats debut against New Hampshire righthander Nick Tepesch.
New Hampshire 4, Hartford 3 (11)
New Hampshire (2-0) 002 000 000 02 — 4-8-0
Hartford (0-2) 000 200 000 01 — 3-7-1
Jordan Romano, Danny Young (6), Andrew Case (8), Zach Jackson (9), Conor Fisk (11) and Max Penecost; Ryan Castellani, Craig Schlitter (5), Matt Pierpont (9), Jason Garcia (10) and Chris Rabago; WP: Jackson (1-0); LP: Garcia (0-1); Save: Fisk 1; 2B: Cavin Biggio (NH), Lourdes Gurriel (NH), Brendan Rodgers (H); HR: Rodgers (H), Sam Hillard (H); A – 3,537