Hot Rods open 10th season with walk-off win
The Bowling Green Hot Rods displayed their new and improved team to fans on Thursday night, and both parties had to be pleased with what they saw.
Thanks to Ronaldo Hernandez’s single in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Hot Rods earned a 5-4 walkoff win over Dayton at Bowling Green Ballpark in their 10th Opening Day game.
“It felt good,” Hernandez said of his game-winning hit. “I was waiting for that at-bat. I had confidence in myself. I was thinking to see the ball and get a good hit — and it happened.”
Bowling Green (1-0) built a 2-0 lead in the third inning on Emilio Gustave’s solo homerun and Brendan McKay’s RBI single, but Dayton went on to score four straight runs before the Hot Rods tallied the final three to claim the victory.
Seven different Hot Rods recorded hits — and the club finished with nine on the night. Gustave and Vidal Brujan both finished with two hits each, while McKay — the former Louisville star and No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft — went 1-for-2 with an RBI and three walks in his first appearance in Downtown BG.
“Ronaldo … what a daze hit that was,” Hot Rods manager Craig Albernaz said. “I think he was 0-for-4 at that point and then he steps up and delivers a clutch hit. That’s great resilency on his part. He did a good job of rising to the occasion and not getting to anxious at the plate.”
Andy Sugilio led the way for the Dragons (0-1) with a 3-for-5 showing at the plate.
Bowling Green and Dayton will meet for Game 2 of the three-game series on Friday at 6:35 p.m. at BG Ballpark. RHP Austin Franklin is expected to start on the mound for the Hot Rods, while the Dragons are expected to place righty Mac Sceroler on the bump.
“We’ll just take it one game at a time,” said Albernaz. “Hopefully we can get the victory.”
The Hot Rods got their bats going in the third inning.
Gustave sent a solo shot over the wall in left center to give Bowling Green a 1-0 lead, and Brujan followed up with a double into the left corner while Zac Law walked to give McKay two on with just one out.
Taking advantage of the situation, the highly touted McKay recorded an RBI single for his first hit as a Hot Rod and pushed BG’s advantage to 2-0 after three.
Dayton fought back two innings later, evening the scoreboard at 2-all with Stuart Fairchild’s RBI double before John Sansone singled to score Fairchild and put the Dragons in front 3-2.
The Dragons pushed their lead to 4-2 in the top of the seventh as Miles Gordon crossed home on a passed ball.
Bowling Green batted back in the later part of the contest.
“We have a good team and we can compete with all of the teams,” said Hernandez.
Behind the power of Adrian Rondon, the third baseman sent a pitch into left center and scored both Moises Gomez and McKay to tie things at 4-4 entering the ninth inning.
It was in the bottom of the final frame that Hernandez would come through with his clutch hit that sent Brujan home and sealed the Opening Day win for the Hot Rods.
“He took the first pitch for a strike and knew what he was looking for,” Albernaz said of Hernandez. “He got the pitch and he stroked it.”