Dustin Peterson wiped away bits of a shaving cream pie from his face as the sounds of rapper 50 Cent blared in the TinCaps’ clubhouse.
Hey, look, they’re happy again, said a team official, passing through the celebration.
Peterson lined a walk-off single in the ninth inning and was mobbed by teammates as the TinCaps rallied for a 6-5 win over Peoria in the series opener Thursday night at Parkview Field.
The TinCaps (5-8) narrowly avoided another extra-inning affair on the heels of Wednesday’s franchise-record, 18-inning marathon, a heartbreaking 7-5 loss.
It’s a big relief, Peterson said. I did not want to go 18 again. Everyone in here would say the same.
Peterson jumped on a first-pitch curveball with runners on second and third and one out.
Peoria manager Joe Kruzel went with a five-man infield in an attempt to cut down the winning run.
Peterson made the strategy moot.
He’s shown great at-bats this year, TinCaps manager Michael Collins said. Something Morgan Burkhart, the hitting coach, has spoken to all our hitters about is having a certain approach when you step in. Right there it showed. He was ready with a good plan.
Tied entering the frame, Ronnie Richardson was hit by a pitch leading off against Peoria’s Joe Scanio.
When I step in the box, my job is to get on base, Richardson said. The pitcher had a lower arm slot and sink. I knew that coming into the at-bat.
From there, a pair of bunts paid off handsomely. Speedy leadoff man Mallex Smith placed his perfectly inside the first-base line and reached without a throw. Josh VanMeter then sacrificed the runners into position for Peterson.
When they made the pitching visit and Mallex came over, I said, Hey, play your game,’ Collins said. Mallex is a tough guy who can bunt. I didn’t put that on. That was something he did.
The TinCaps carried a 4-3 lead to the eighth before Peoria (8-5) went ahead on an outfield misplay.
With two outs, the Chiefs’ Ronald Castillo scored from first after a ball hopped past Richardson in left. Kenneth Peoples-Walls was credited with a double that appeared no more than a single off the bat.
The TinCaps bounced right back in their first chance. In what would serve as a familiar template, Franmil Reyes opened the eighth by getting hit by a pitch. He slid in ahead of the tag on Franchy Cordero’s tying, first-pitch sacrifice fly.
Tony Rizzotti (1-1) wriggled out of a two-on, none-out jam in the top of the ninth by inducing a double-play grounder and a harmless pop to second.
TinCaps starter Pete Kelich went six innings and Rizzotti three.
Peterson, the designated hitter, went 0 for 4 before his walk-off hit, something he said he hadn’t done since high school.
What a game, he said.