By Josh Cook
The seventh was heaven for the Louisville Bats on Saturday night.
A five-run seventh inning propelled them past host Indianapolis 10-6 at Victory Field, and into first place in the International League West.
That's because while Louisville was winning the first game of a quick three-game set in Indy, Columbus was losing its fourth straight game, this time 8-4 against Toledo. The Bats (72-55), who have won four of their last five, now lead the division by a half-game over the Clippers (72-56).
Louisville won for the sixth time in its last seven games against the Indians thanks in large part to five hits, including three for extra bases, by center fielder Dave Sappelt. Five other Bats had at least two hits as they pounded three Indy pitchers for 18 hits.
Louisville scored a pair of runs in the fourth and fifth before its five-spot in the seventh, then added a run in the ninth.
In the fourth Indians starter Brian Burres walked Wladimir Balentien and Devin Mesoraco back-to-back with two outs before Wilkin Castillo doubled them both home.
The Indians scored once in the bottom of the inning off Louisville starter Matt Maloney, then answered with two more in the fifth.
Sappelt led off the inning with a triple, then scored on Zach Cozart's single. Cozart moved to third when Yonder Alonso followed him with a single. He would score on Juan Francisco's one-out RBI-single.
However, the Indians tied the game in the sixth thanks to a three-run error.
Maloney gave up a two-out single to John Bowker, followed by a double to Brandon Moss and a walk to Mitch Jones before being replaced by Jerry Gil. Maloney gave up seven hits and one earned run, while walking one and striking out six over 5 2/3 innings. He was soon to be charged with three more unearned runs, though.
That's because the first batter Gil faced, Erik Kratz, lifted a fly ball to left field that was dropped by Todd Frazier. All three baserunners scored to make it 4-all. Gill got the next batter, Doug Bernier, to fly out. It was the only out Gil would record on the way to his second victory of the season, because the Bats' big inning was just around the corner.
Alonso and Frazier started the seventh off with back-to-back doubles, the second of which scored Alonso, off Indy reliever Dana Eveland (0-2). Frazier moved to third when Francisco grounded out, then scored on Balentien's single. Mesoraco moved Balentien to third with a single of his own, but the Bats' catcher was also injured on the play and had to leave the game.
Castillo followed with a single that advanced Michael Griffin, who replaced Mesoraco to second. Then with pinch-hitter Eric Eymann batting, an errant pickoff attempt throw by Kratz (Indy's catcher), moved Griffin to third and Castillo to second. After Eymann struck out Sappelt brought them both home with a double.
The Indians pulled within 9-6 in the bottom of the inning on Moss' two-out, two-run single off Louisville reliever Philippe Valiquette.
In the ninth Danny Dorn walked with one out, moved to third on Sappelt's single and scored when Indy reliever Brian Bass walked Alonso and Frazier back-to-back with two outs.
Aroldis Chapman came on in the ninth, allowing one hit while striking out door, to finish off the Indians.
Sappelt's five hits, which were one short of the single-game franchise record (set by Mark Budzinski in 2003), raised his batting average to .350 in nine games with the Bats. A quintet of others - Cozart, Alonso, Francisco, Balentien and Castillo - had two hits apiece.
Louisville and Indy will battle at 2 p.m. Sunday in the second game of the series.
Photo courtesy Louisville Bats