PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh’s Drake Sykes put an exclamation point on a drama-filled day at Chip Cummings Field Monday.
With the Thunderbirds down, 7-4, in the bottom of the ninth, Sykes came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.
Two strikes sizzled across the dish, but Sykes, who pinch hit for Mohammed Hussein, was not fazed.
On the next pitch, Sykes blasted a walk-off grand slam to left field to lift the Thunderbirds to a thrilling, come-from-behind 8-7 win against Road City in a Empire Pro Baseball League wild-card game.
Plattsburgh advanced to the EPBL championship series.
The Thunderbirds will face the New Hampshire Wild in a three-game series to decide the EPBL champion.
A time, date and location of the championship series had not been made available to the public at press time.
In its dramatic win, Plattsburgh faced a 4-0 deficit before it even came to bat, as the Explorers, propelled by a two-run single from Armando Valencia, jumped out to an early lead.
The Thunderbirds got two runs back in the bottom half of the opening frame thanks to a two-run base knock off the bat of Stephen Octave.
After scoring once in the third, Plattsburgh tied the game in the fifth after Octave lifted a sacrifice fly to center to allow Simon Palenchar to cross the plate.
Charles Steele’s RBI double, a throwing error and a run-scoring single from Joshua Luna gave Road City a 7-4 lead in the seventh inning.
In the ninth after Explorers reliever Toby Figner replaced Scott Hall on the mound, Plattsburgh’s Taylor Olmstead was hit by a pitch, Palenchar recorded a single and Danny Muller walked to load the bases and set the table for Sykes.
Palenchar finished with a team-high three hits in the Thunderbirds’ lineup, while Sykes (4) and Octave (3) combined for seven RBIs.
Chris Tessitore pitched a scoreless ninth frame for Plattsburgh and got the pitching win.
Thunderbirds starter Cas Silber tossed six innings and fanned 10 batters, while giving up four runs on four hits and three walks.
Spencer Hereford worked 7.2 innings for Road City, surrendering three earned runs on nine hits and four walks to go along with seven strikeouts.
Ricky Martinez finished with a team-high three hits to pace the Explorers, and Steele notched two base knocks.
Plattsburgh 8, Road City 7
Road City 400 000 300 — 7 9 2
Plattsburgh 201 010 004 — 8 11 1
Hereford, Hall (8), Figner (9) and Dickt. Silber, Nunez (7), Kramer (8), Tessitore (9) and Kellerman. WP- Tessitore. LP- Figner. 2B- Steele (RC), Olmstead (P), Palenchar (P). HR- Sykes (P).