The K-Tribe’s Josh Rodriguez hit a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Salem 1-0 and send Kinston to a winner take all third game in the Southern Division Championship Series. Rodriguez broke the tie on an 0-1 pitch with one out, sending a no doubter high and deep over the left field wall. The Carolina League All Star hit 20 home runs during the regular season; the walk off shot was his first hit of the Southern Division Series.
Rodriguez was not the only hero in Thursday’s game as Kinston put together a total team effort to turn back Salem. Kinston starter Frank Herrmann went seven innings, giving up six hits and striking out five. Herrmann did not walk a batter. Erik Stiller picked up the win, throwing a scoreless eighth and ninth innings. Stiller gave up one hit while striking out two. Stiller did not walk a batter. Both pitchers were helped out by a pair of great defensive plays from Kinston center fielder Jose Constanza. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Constanza kept Salem scoreless by throwing out Cesar Quintero at home on a Billy Hart single. Constanza came to the rescue again in the top of the ninth inning, making a diving catch on a Mark Ori drive meant for extra bases.
The dramatic win erases a great starting effort by Salem’s Polin Trinidad. The Avalanche starter gave up just three hits in seven innings. Trinidad struck out seven K-Tribe batters and walked none. Raymar Diaz took the loss, giving up the home run to Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Kinston win forces a deciding game three of the best of three series Friday night at Grainger Stadium. Game time set for 7pm as Kinston will send Sung-Wei Tseng to the mound to face of against Salem’s Bud Norris.