On Monday, June 21st, the Tupper Lake Riverpigs headed to Lyon Mountain, NY to take on the Plattsburgh Thunderbirds for their first series matchup of the regular season. The Thunderbirds are coming off three straight losses against the New Hampshire Wild while Tupper Lake, a week prior, won three games of a four game set against cross-lake rival Saranac Lake Surge. Preceding the series, Tupper Lake stood alone atop the standings and Plattsburgh at the bottom with an overall record of 2-4. For Plattsburgh, this series serves as a redemption set; a win or wins against Tupper will help bolster the confidence the Thunderbirds need going down the stretch. In order for the Riverpigs to keep their impressive play and consistency alive, a good performance against the T-Birds would be ideal for their team as they look to increase their win total. Early on in game one, the Riverpig offense posted a quick two runs, highlighted by a two run blast by outfielder Edward Salcedo to left field, to help give starting pitcher Jose Zacarias a comfortable cushion of runs while on the mound. After a couple of shutout innings from Zacarius, the Thunderbirds rallied by putting up a run in the bottom of the third to cut the Tupper lead in half. Pitcher Jacob Lafountain, of the Thunderbirds, threw a great first half of the game until he, ultimately, allowed a streak of three runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Consequently, Jacob was pulled and replaced by reliever Zachary Goree, who would go on to pitch the rest of the outing. Following his one run allowed in the third, starter Jose Zacarius pitched a couple of shutout innings until exiting the hill after the end of the fifth inning. He would finish his start with five strikeouts and eight hits given up. Riverpig relievers Branden Sattenfield, Austin Henson, and Reibel Custodio would follow suit with Zacarius by pitching four combined innings of zero earned runs, five K’s and a minimal two hits allowed. Tupper Lake would go on to take game one of the three game series with a final score of 8-1. Late Tuesday afternoon, game two of the three game sequence was set to take place and both squads, especially Plattsburgh, were looking to solidify a solid performance en route to a second match victory. Limited to a low number of pitchers due to players being called up and availability issues, Thunderbirds manager Sam Quinn-Loeb was forced to make the decision of starting a position player on the mound. With little pitching experience professionally, Darrell Gotz Jr. was faced with the unfamiliar lead role against a Tupper Lake team whose bats had been consistently solid throughout the early portion of the season. Allowing only one run in the top half of the first, an unlikely impressive start by a position player was in the minds of everyone involved. The Thunderbirds would tack on two runs early to help Gotz Jr. continue his start with the momentum leaning their way. Even when it seemed like an improbable outing of position pitching could pay off, the Tupper Lake Riverpigs silenced any hope for said performance by scoring four runs in the top half of the second. The numerous runs scored were spotlighted by a three run homer by Edward Salcedo, his second home run of the series. Ultimately, Darrell Gotz Jr. would pitch five innings for the Thunderbirds, allowing seven hits and seven earned runs as well as six strikeouts. In the start of the bottom of the fifth inning, the Thunderbirds trailed Tupper Lake 7-3 and would need a little magic from their offense. And magic is just what they were granted. The Thunderbirds executed a four run inning to tie the game, headlined by a pair of RBI singles from first baseman Jordan Larson and catcher Alex Rodriguez. Plattsburgh relief pitcher Cody Boydstun entered the game in the sixth inning and pitched lights-out through three innings, going shutout through the eighth. With another run tallied on the score for the T-Birds in the seventh, the Riverpigs trailed 8-7 heading into the ninth, and they needed a little magic themselves if they wished to extend the game further. Drew Thomas and Miguel Molina each provided their Riverpigs team with an RBI to post two runs and to, eventually, take a 9-8 lead with the Thunderbirds due up in the bottom of the ninth inning. Faced with the obstacle of needing one run to tie or several to win, Plattsburgh came up to the plate ready and willing to face the challenge. Shortstop Luis Rojas reached the bases via a base hit single and was on the diamond, representing the tying run. A bloop single to shallow right field by Jordan Larson would score Rojas and force extras in game two. With the international extra innings rule enforced by the Empire Baseball League where a runner starts on second base to begin each half inning, the Thunderbirds and Riverpigs were each given a weapon to help them with the hopes of securing a win. Unfortunately for Tupper Lake, the offense was unable to score a run in the top half of the first, so all Plattsburgh needed was to score the runner from second. Face-to-face with the pressure of winning the game, Thunderbirds third baseman Khie Simms confidently slapped a bunt on the first pitch of the bottom half of the first extra inning. The bunt-and-run would work to perfection, as the runner advanced to third until a throwing error to first base allowed the runner to cruise to home plate and win in walk off fashion. The walk-off bunt pulled off by Khie Simms fastened the Thunderbirds a 10-9 win to even the series at one game a piece. Game three, the final game of the series, occurred on Wednesday, June 23rd and both teams were searching for a series clinch. Game two was an exciting one as the fans and teams witnessed a rare walk-off bunt execute the Thunderbirds to a series tying victory. In the final game, Thunderbirds starting pitcher, Adam Michalesko, threw an astonishing five shutout innings, while, during which, the Thunderbirds barrels would score two runs to take a 2-0 lead heading into the top half of the sixth inning. Adam would end up exiting the game after allowing two runs by the Riverpigs to tie the ball game. He finished with five hits allowed, two earned runs, and one strikeout. Heading into the seventh inning, the game remained tied until Plattsburgh posted two runs to take a 4-2 lead, highlighted by an RBI triple by Brandon Russo. But knowing the Riverpigs, a lead by the opposing team meant nothing but a will to push for a victory. Tupper Lake scored one run in the eighth to cut the Plattsburgh lead to just one run, and they wouldn’t stop there. In the top of the ninth, third baseman Drew Thomas blasted a homerun to tie the game and keep their hopes of clinching the series alive. Later on, critical throwing errors allowed Riverpigs center fielder Killian Bloat to reach home plate and give his team a 5-4 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. Similar to the situation of game two, Plattsburgh needed one run to tie the game, or could win with a couple of heads crossing home plate. One run to go into extras was what they needed, and one run is what they received to force a game extension. Extra innings began and Tupper Lake immediately took charge of the moment by scoring two runs in the top of the tenth inning to take a 7-5 lead. Unfortunately, Plattsburgh was unable to match the performance of their counterpart in the first half of the inning and would fail to score a run, losing the game 7-5. Following the three game set, Plattsburgh fell to third place in the standings with an overall record of 3-6, and the Riverpigs increased their win margin to 7-3 to remain atop the regular season leaderboard. Article by Jack Burgess