PORTLAND — On Friday night, when the Sea Dogs blew a three-run lead in the ninth and lost, Shannon Wilkerson made the last out. He stayed in the dugout afterward for a long time, quietly reflecting on the game.
On Sunday, Wilkeron joined his teammates after the game in a loud, celebratory clubhouse.
Wilkerson’s two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning gave the Sea Dogs a 4-3 win over the New Britain Rock Cats, before 4,160 at Hadlock Field.
Portland (45-41) stopped a three-game losing streak to New Britain (43-45).
“I hate to lose,” Wilkerson said. “The best feeling is being on this side of a late-inning game. We’ve lost a couple of tough ones.”
Rafael Perez (1-1) got the win, pitching 11/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Keith Couch put in another fine start, going 72/3 innings and allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits. His ERA dropped to 3.80, but it is 2.32 since he returned to the starting rotation on June 9.
Couch allowed all three runs and three hits in the first two innings – a passed ball and suspect fielding not helping the cause. But Couch kept his team in the game.
“Couch is a big reason we picked it up,” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. “Once he got through those first innings, he created a tempo did a nice job of attacking the zone.”
Portland began its comeback with two runs in the sixth inning. Christian Vazquez walked. Garin Cecchini doubled him in. And Tony Thomas scored Cecchini with a single.
In the eighth, reliever Bruce Pugh (1-1) walked Thomas and Travis Shaw. With two outs, Thomas stood on third and pinch-runner Derrik Gibson on second.
Pugh used his fastball to get ahead of Wilkerson 1-2, but then hung a slider over the middle of the plate. Wilkerson lined it into centerfield, scoring Thomas and Gibson for a 4-3 lead.
“I stayed back and followed the ball well,” Wilkerson said. “I’m glad he threw a slider. I didn’t look so hot on his fastball.”
Perez, who relieved Couch with two outs in the eighth, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
The teams play again Monday at noon at Hadlock. Terry Doyle, who recently joined the Sea Dogs from Triple-A Pawtucket, will get his first start for Portland.
NOTES: Sea Dogs pitcher Anthony Ranaudo learned he will not only be allowed to pitch in the Eastern League All-Star Game Wednesday, he will be the East team’s starting pitcher. Ranaudo (8-2, 2.67) is also scheduled to appear in the Major League All-Star Futures Game next Sunday. Starter Matt Barnes also received good news Sunday. After taking a line drive off his left wrist Saturday night, Barnes had the injury re-evaluated Sunday. It is still only a contusion. Cecchini went 2 for 4 Sunday, improving his average to .418 through 15 games.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: