“Star Wars” night brought out the drama, and the unlikely heroes, Saturday at Hadlock Field.
Heiker Meneses, a .185 hitter for the Portland Sea Dogs, struck the big blow, a run-scoring single in the bottom of the 10th inning that produced a 1-0 victory over the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
The bases were loaded, and the count was full, when Meneses drove a sinker off the wall in left-center field to send his teammates rushing out of the dugout and create pandemonium among the sellout crowd of 7,368.
“He was throwing inside to me, all sinkers. He threw sinker, sinker, sinker, and I just had to make the adjustment,” Meneses said. “He threw another sinker, but more in the middle of the plate, so I made good contact. I just tried to make good contact, because when you do, something good can happen.”
The fifth pitch from Richmond reliever Edwin Quirarte almost made contact with Meneses’ torso. But he leaned away from the pitch, which made the count 3-2.
“If he hit me, then we win there, too,” Meneses said, shaking his head.
It wasn’t the first time Meneses, a strong-fielding shortstop, sent a weekend crowd home happy this season. He ended a Mother’s Day marathon with the winning single for a 13-12 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Saturday’s game, the 11th sellout of the season for the Sea Dogs, marked the annual “Star Wars” night. Children dressed as characters from the popular science-fiction movies. The players wore garish brown jerseys modeled after Chewbacca, the hairy Wookiee in the films.
There were fireworks after the game, but neither offense could generate any for the first nine innings. Richmond starter Clayton Blackburn threw eight shutout innings with 11 strikeouts, no walks and just three hits allowed.
Portland’s Keith Couch matched him scoreless inning for scoreless inning. He allowed just two hits in his eight innings, with three walks and seven strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 2.70.
Dayan Diaz, a newcomer, came on in relief – just his eighth appearance for Portland. On Sunday in Richmond, Diaz was battered for four runs while recording only one out and taking the loss.
This time, he mixed a slider in with his mid-90s fastball, striking out two in two scoreless innings. The win ran his record to 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA.
“I was a little bit excited. But I felt comfortable this time,” Diaz said. “I like pitching in the pressure.”
He threw 21 pitches and 19 of them were strikes.
“It was great pitching for both teams,” said Meneses, who had two groundouts and a strikeout before his dramatic finale.
“I’m just glad I could help get the win for my team.”