Akron's Matt Lawson drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning Tuesday night, as the Aeros nipped the Harrisburg Senators, 2-1, in the opener of a three-game series at Metro Bank Park.
Lawson was 2-2, with a double on the night as the Aeros rallied from a 1-0 deficit to pick up their league-high 71st win and drop their magic number for clinching the division title to 14.
The Aeros were trailing 1-0 in the seventh, when Lawson led off the inning with a double off Marcos Frias. Ryan Rohlinger walked, and both runners moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt by Roberto Perez. The next hitter, Davis Stoneburner, lifted a long fly ball to right field to drive in Lawson to tie the game at 1-1. It was Stoneburner's 20th RBI of the season.
The eighth played out almost identical to the seventh as Akron (71-50) took the lead. Jordan Henry led off with an infield hit off Patrick McCoy (7-2). Thomas Neal walked, and with one out, Jesus Aguilar blooped a single into shallow center for his first Double-A hit, loading the bases. After the Senators brought in Jimmy Barthmeier, Lawson drove a sacrifice fly to center field for a 2-1 Akron lead.
Bryce Stowell held the lead with a perfect eighth, and then Preston Guilmet turned in a perfect ninth to earn his league-best 20th save of the season.
The comeback made a winner of Rob Bryson (5-3) who tossed two innings, retiring all six batters he face in the sixth and seventh. In total, Aeros relievers retired all 12 hitters they faced.
The starting pitchers were excellent. Paolo Espino worked the first five innings for Akron, giving up only a solo homer to Harrisburg's Jose Lozada in the first inning. Espino gave up six hits and walked three, but struck out eight in the no-decision. He has gone 13 consecutive starts without a loss.
Righthander Kevin Pucetas started for the Senators (56-66) and tossed five scoreless innings, but came away empty-handed.
Henry joined Lawson as the only Aeros with two hits.
The Aeros will continue the series at Harrisburg on Wednesday night at 7:00. LHP T.J. House (6-3, 3.58) will make the start for the Aeros, while RHP Trevor Holder (2-2, 4.26) will get the starting nod for Harrisburg.