The International League leading Columbus Clippers split a pair of seven inning games with the visiting Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Sunday in what turned out to be two very different contests.
Columbus’ David Huff took his previously unblemished record to the mound in the first game of the afternoon, but the IronPigs were swinging hot bats from the start.
Five of the first six Lehigh Valley batters reached base safely, including a run scoring single from Ronnie Belliard and a run scoring ground-rule double by Josh Barfield to build a 2-0 advantage before the Clippers even stepped to the plate.
And that would be all the help IronPigs’ starter Eddie Bonine would need.
“I think the first game you’ve got to give credit to their starter, Bonine,” said Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh. “I think it’s not so much about what we didn’t do, it was more about what he did.”
What he did was go five innings on the hill giving up just one run on five hits before making way for his bullpen to close out the game perfectly with two innings of no hit baseball. The IronPigs offense added a run in both the third and fourth innings to secure the 4-1 victory.
Huff dropped his first game of the season falling to 3-1 with Bonine improving to 3-3.
The afternoon’s second contest saw plenty of early offense once again, however, this time it was the home squad doing the damage from the batter’s box.
“I thought it was key the way we came out in game two, especially after struggling a little bit offensively in game one,” Sarbaugh said.
The Clippers got on the board in the first thanks to a Cord Phelps run scoring double before a power surge ensued over the next two innings.
Jerad Head and Luke Carlin belted home runs of the solo and two-run variety respectively in the bottom of the second before Wes Hodges and Phelps added three and two run blasts of their own in the third.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis and first basemen Hodges led the way offensively for the Clippers with three hits apiece and combined for five runs batted in between them. Kipnis credited the team’s boost in production from game one to two to their change in mindset.
“I think everyone started to loosen up on the day and it kind of clicked in that we had to go back to our approaches,” he said. “We just had to step back, look at our pitch selection that we were swinging at and I think once guys started to do that you started to see better at bats, harder contact and more runs scored.”
That they did.
The Clippers ran IronPigs’ starter Brian Bass from the mound after just two innings in which they tagged him for eight earned runs on nine hits.
After the Clippers cooled off, the IronPigs took a run at the 10-0 Columbus lead with two runs in the fourth, three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth, but ultimately fell short as the Clippers took game two by a score of 12-6.
Scott Barnes got the job done on the mound for Columbus giving up 5 runs on 7 hits in 5 innings of work to earn his second victory of the year.
“He ran into a little bit of trouble in some innings where he wasn’t getting ahead of hitters,” Sarbaugh said of Barnes’ performance. “It was a good game for him and I think it is definitely something he can build off of…there were a lot of positives from Scott today.”
With the split of the doubleheader, the Clippers move to 23-7 on the year and Lehigh Valley is now 16-14. The two squads split the four game series with two wins a piece.
The Clippers will return to action on Monday night as they welcome the Charlotte Knights to town for a 6:35 p.m. first pitch.