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Walk-off homer keeps River Bandits alive in High-A Championship Series

The River Bandits extend the High-A Central Championship Series with a walk-off homer by first baseman Logan Porter.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — It's often said the two best words in sports are "Game 7." The best-of-five High-A Central Championship Series won't go that far, but Game 5 on Sunday between the Kernels and River Bandits will have all of the same feelings in the winner-take-all matchup.

A walk-off blast in the ninth inning by Quad Cities first baseman Logan Porter gave the Bandits a 2-1 win in Game 4 on Saturday and kept hopes alive for a 12th league title in team history.

When asked where the homer ranks in his career, the 26-year-old says it was, "probably the swing of his life."

"That was something else," Porter said in his postgame presser. "I don't even know how to put it into words. I really don't, (I'm) still taking it in."

While Porter was the offensive hero of the night, Bandits relievers Zack Phillips and Will Klein deserve praise for the job they did out of the bullpen.

Both pitchers came into the game in bases-loaded situations and shut down the Kernels without allowing a run each time. Cedar Rapids loaded the bases on three separate occasions but did not score.

"We were wondering how many bullets we could dodge," Bandits manager Chris Widger said. "I can't say enough about what Phillips and Klein did in that game for us tonight. I mean to give us a chance, that's all you can ask for."

Phillips came in for Quad Cities starter Charlie Neuwiler, who escaped a bases-loaded scenario unharmed in the top of the third.

Neuwiler walked the bases loaded with two outs in the fourth when Widger called for Phillips out the 'pen.

The lefty threw one pitch and got Kernels shortstop Daniel Ozoria to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

Phillips' only blemish on the night came in the fifth inning, when he allowed a solo home run to first baseman Aaron Sabato that broke a scoreless tie and gave Cedar Rapids a 1-0 lead.

The Bandits would answer in the bottom half in the inning on a two-out rally started by catcher William Hancock, who walked and scored on a double by Maikel Garcia.

In the top of the sixth inning with the game tied 1-1, another base-loaded situation was inherited, this time by reliever Will Klein who came in for Phillips.

The hard-throwing right-hander struck out back-to-back Kernels hitters to end the inning, verbally and visually firing up the crowd and teammates on his way to the home dugout.

Klein earned the win after pitching 2 2/3 shutout innings, striking out six hitters and allowing just one base runner on a bloop single.

Cedar Rapids recorded seven hits on the night but left 11 runners on base and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The River Bandits didn't do much better offensively, totaling just five hits and leaving seven stranded while going 0-for-7 in scoring chances, but Quad Cities got the biggest hit of the night when it mattered the most.

"I'm just happy for the guys, you know, that it gives them something to be excited about. Hopefully, it takes a little bit of that tightness out and lets them go out there and just just play the way they have all year. They deserve to be here," Widger said. "I think they just need to go out and trust each other and have fun and say 'if I don't do do it, the next guy will get me it's not the end of the world'."

With the series tied 2-2, it all comes down to a deciding Game 5, where anything can happen.

Quad Cities will send Game 1 starter A.J. Block to the mound to face Cedar Rapids starter Cody Laweryson on Sunday.

First pitch for the Kernels and River Bandits is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. from Modern Woodmen Park.

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